With Jarrett returning from his travels across Europe, an unexpected surprise from his luggage sprang a bottle of English wine - my first taste ever from Britania.
As far as climates go, one wouldn't normally consider England ideally placed for making wine. A bit cold, a bit wet and a bit windy. Wait, did we just describe England or Champagne or Chablis? The other consideration is that the ridge of limestone soils that reach from Northern Burgundy across Northern France finishes in Southern England (the other big white wall outside of Game of Thrones, and perhaps even more famous... Dover?). Sunshine hours and 'growing degree days' are key measures to determine suitability for agriculture including grape vines. In this department Kent still lags behind the cool Champagne region by about 10%, so the wines are never going to be especially opulent, high in sugar/alcohol. The Guinevere clocks in at just 11.5% alcohol, so I'm expecting a leaner style of wine.
The vineyard and winery are young, established in just 2004. The vines are pruned high above the ground to allow plenty of airflow and minimise potential frost damage and making the most of every ounce of sunshine on offer. Both Gusbourne and English wines in general are perhaps best known for sparkling wines rather than stlil table wines, in fact it was an Englishman that first discovered / created the formula for the Methode Traditionelle way of making Champagne sparkling wines, a good 100 years before Dom Perignon set foot in his abbey.
So back to the wine at hand. It's 100% Chardonnay, pale gold in the glass, on the nose the wine is driven by fresh lime and a hint of salty brine. Plenty of freshness upfront on the palate with lean tart grapefruit and lime, a hint of roasted nuts coming from time maturing in old French oak barrels. It's in balance and pleasant to sip on. As it spends time breathing & warms up towards room temperature the aromas become a little more generous- some cashews and lemon peel, tiny hints of tropical fruit and a little creaminess on the palate... however it sacrifices some of its structure and length in the process.
At 28 quid on the shelf in the UK its not super-great value, at that kind of price one can buy some seriously good White Burgundy (not to mention outstanding grower Champagne) but might be aiming for a well heeled and patriotic English banker. With global warming it may slowly become more feasible to grow grapes and make some good wines here for fewer dollars.
Thanks to Jarrett for sacrificing precious luggage weight allowance to bring it back to NZ & we'll continue to keep an open mind about Olde Britania.