Know Your Grapes – Seyval Blanc

One of the most common questions we get asked during events & Vineyard Tours is “How can you grow vines in the UK?”

We are still at the very beginning of general public knowledge on Grape Varieties and UK Vineyards & Wines.  So we’re going to start a range of blog posts on the varieties we’re growing at Amber Valley Wines in the Heart of Derbyshire.

Starting with the grape that will eventually become the main base of our Sparkling English Wine.


This is hybrid wine grape variety used to make white wines. 

It’s vines ripen early, are productive and are suited to fairly cool climates. Seyval Blanc is grown mainly in England, the United States east coast (specifically the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, and Virginia), as well as to a lesser extent in Canada.

As it contains some non-vinifera genes, it is outlawed by the EU authorities for quality wine production, which is an issue of conflict with the English wine industry.

Seyval blanc has a characteristic citrus element in the aroma and taste, as well as a minerality that may be compared to white Burgundy. It is often oaked and subjected to a stage of malolactic fermentation.

Our friends over at The English Wine Shop have a couple of great examples of Sparkling Seyval Blanc English Wines :

Any questions just ask away and we’ll do our best to answer them.

Cheers & Enjoy


Wine Review : Danebury Cossack 2009 & Nyetimber Classic Cuvee 2004

Saturday started like any Saturday does, I rolled out of bed, had a relaxing coffee, read The Spectator and then did a few wee jobs in the house and caught-up with an email or two.  The afternoon, bright and sunny and at times cold and showery, looked like it would be predictable enough too, I was planning to take Zoë, my daughter, for a quick visit to the vineyard and do a bit of the pruning; if it stayed dry enough.  But then I got text message from Duncan saying ‘Can you collect your Nyetimber and there’s some Danebury Cossack ’09 fizz for you to review too,’ and suddenly Saturday evening was filled with new promise of something slightly less mundane.  English sparkling excites me in a way that few wines do.

We’ve been fortunate enough to get hold of a decent stock of Nyetimber Classic Cuvee 2004, so obviously I earmarked a few bottles to try (it was the only decent thing to do), I was just waiting for a good moment to go get it from Duncan’s.  The Danebury was a lovely bonus. So off we drove in the sunshine to collect it.  On the way back we stopped by the vineyard but, predictably enough, it clouded over and rained so it was just a quick visit to give Zoë the chance of a runaround and burn off some energy (anyone with an energetic 6 year old will know it has to be done, no matter what the weather) and we picked up a bit of shopping and headed back to watch The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that Zoë forced me to buy – no, honestly.

Danebury Cossack 2009

So, after getting home and sticking the Danbury in the fridge for a decent enough length of time to chill, and with the dulcet tones of Leonardo, Raphael and Co. hard at work tearing up evil samurais in downtown New York emanating from the living room I got my notebook out.  Danebury Cossack is a sparkling wine that is well known to us at The English Wine Shop, where the 2006 has been a consistently popular.  This Hampshire vineyard estate is located on a former racetrack, the horses that raced there inspiring their wine names.  Cossack being the 1847 Epsom Derby winner, fittingly adorning the label of a wine with a medal winning pedigree.

The Cossack is a blend of Auxerrois and Pinot Gris (Rulander) grapes, making a sparkling that, to my mind anyway, sings of its inventive Englishness, taking none traditional Champagne varieties and turning them into a sparkling that can stand alongside any made from the holy trinity.  These wines are aged on their lees for 4 years, to add complexity and structure.  The 2006 is good, interesting, crisp and citrusy with undertones of pear and a fresh brioche finish and, deservedly, it is a 2012 IWSC bronze medal winner.  However, the 2009 was something else.  Some of those characteristics in the 2006 were still there but somehow writ large and made richer. The gold tinted clear vino showed a lively yet refined bubble and the nose revealed a hint of tropical fruit, pineapples perhaps.  Hard fruit flavours of apples and pears showed through beautifully, elegantly and showing a hint of pineapple again but it was the fresh yeasty breadiness adding some excitement.

Here is a wine that would be a fabulous occasion sparkling and that would pair beautifully with a variety of canapés, especially seafood ones. It’s also a wine that will soon appear on our website.  This is an astonishingly good bottle of fizz and I’m pleased to hear that it will be entered into the IWSC 2015 – this could place well.  Needless to say Saturday evening proceeded most pleasantly.

Nyetimber Classic Cuvée 2004

Well, Sunday morning passed off predictably enough too, a lie-in, coffee and brunch, because I was intending to work in the vineyard pruning.  I headed out and quickly discovered that there was a raw biting wind but undeterred I went to the vineyard.  About 20 minutes into it the rain started lashing down and turned into occasional sleet and hail before becoming full-blown snow.  Aside from being a thankless task in those conditions there’s some sound evidence that pruning in the wet doesn’t do the vines much good either.  So, working in the best interests of the vines you understand, I abandoned the task.  The Nyetimber was already chilling – I do like to plan ahead.

Everyone that knows English wine, particularly sparkling wine, knows about Nyetimber, from West Sussex, that now quintessentially English sparkling that nearly two decades ago lead the vanguard for using the Champagne varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and that has now reputedly become HM The Queen’s favourite drop of fizz. The medal haul and embarrassment that has been caused to some of the great Champagne houses has been speaking volumes since the late 90s and the sparkling that has come out of Nyetimber has consistently shattered the expectations of doubters and set the bar for English fizz.  So you’ll forgive me if I say that I was a tad excited by the prospect of opening this wine and as such expectation was high, as I’m sure you can appreciate.

Now, the 2004 Classic Cuvée is something of a rarity these days, and on release was noted for its austerity, its high acidity and citrusy lemon flavours. 2004 was a mixed year but a more normal one than the preceding hot and dry 2003, which produced gentler, more rounded flavours and balanced acidity.  Following a warmer than average August, picking took place in, a slightly damper than usual October and it was already evident that this wine would be very different from the world beating 2003 – a notable connoisseurs wine.  So, with a degree of success and noteworthiness the 2004, when it was released, like all Nyetimber wines sold well and has since seen the release of a further five vintages, culminating in the recent 2009 release, so you can see why there’s not much of it about.  All Nyetimber wines are aged for a good length of time on their lees before release. Most fizz can start to drop off about at around 8-10 years, unless of course it is of excellent quality and craftsmanship, so I wondered how this sparkling would be, now into its eleventh year.

So, with no small amount of trepidation I opened the bottle and poured a taster, and the first thing that struck me was its strong and deep lemony hue and delightfully effervescent small bubbles swirling up the glass and the rich pungent scent of lemons on the nose.  The first sip led me to an inescapable conclusion: this was a big, bold and powerful sparkling.  The acidity was still there and in a good way, giving supporting structure to those powerful, complex, lemon merangue flavours and aromas.  There was a taste of the earth too about this wine, expressing a minerality that has been there since its release but that has now mellowed into something that speaks of the gentle South Downs. This is a wine that was quite different to the Danebury I had tried the day before, a wine to be savoured and enjoyed, and perhaps, because it is bold it may not be to everyones  taste.  I loved it.  this was a wine to wrap yourself in and indulge in and to think of the promise of the English soil.

Sunday, despite the lousy weather turned out pretty well too.

To find out more about these wines and to buy them online visit The English Wine Shop or consider joining our English Wine Club.

Cheers & Enjoy


Announcing The English Wine Club!

Well, it’s all go at moment! Spring is around the corner (although those bone chilling northerlies make it feel further off than it actually is), and the work pace in the vineyards is picking up rapidly.

The post-Christmas lull in activity that lets an ounce or two creep on the hips and tum during the dark days of January, are now being shrugged off as the improving quality of light and the occasional crisp shiny days lift the soul and reminds us that better, longer and warmer days are just ahead.

So whilst I’ve been busy with a few vineyard jobs, and helping our man Drew to build a shed to house a few tools, whilst our other man Drew AKA TreeHugga, has brought down a sycamore that was impeding our view up the road from the gate of the new vineyard, Duncan has been busying himself with our latest project, two years in the thinking and developing – awaiting the right moment to launch it on the world. And that moment has arrived!

English Wine Club

We are proud to be launching The English Wine Club. A great way for wine lovers to enjoy the very best English wines.  It’s the affordable way to get the very best of English wines and to do your bit to keep the flag flying for the best of English and local produce.

Our English wines are sourced mostly from small vineyards and are a truly handcrafted product, made with the love and care you’d rarely find in this price range from a larger wine producing country.

We will aim to bring you the very best quality at the very best price and because you’ll pay monthly and choose your case options, which are delivered every quarter, these cases won’t break the bank.  They’ll ensure you have some truly interesting and exceptional English wines for your cellar, or to surprise your dinner guests with!

We think this is the best way to enjoy English wine; you’ll get tasting notes and details with each case, which will introduce you to the wines and each quarter we’ll taste, find and source the best new wines for you to try.  The more people that join us the bigger and better our buying power gets and the so will the deals and wines we’ll be able to slip into your cases.  So don’t delay, sign up with us today!

And, to top it all, Duncan has overhauled The English Wine Shop website to make it more user friendly and a safer place to buy your English wines!



The English Wine Club

Tomorrow (Saturday 7th February 2015) see’s the opening of the all new English Wine Shop website – this is our sister website where we sell other English Wines (and from May our very own!) in a bid to broaden the knowledge and reach of English Wine.

As part of this new opening we’re also launching the all new Exclusive English Wine Club – for a monthly fee we’ll send you a case of English Wines every 3 months, you can choose from 3, 6 or 12 bottle cases.

This removes the dilemma of wondering what to order, when you taste the great wines and find one you like you can then purchase more with an ongoing discount on the main website.

We also intend to send you exclusive wines that are either cellar door only or in short supply so won’t be available to the general public – now that’s a club worth joining.

On top of all that you’ll have exclusive invites to wine events and partner discounts whenever we get hold of them.

If this sounds like something up your street then get on over to The English Wine Shop and joing today!

More information on the Vineyard works next week – watch this space.

Have a great weekend guys.


Duncan & Barry