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.
Cheers & Enjoy