Time to charge your glasses – the results are in for the inaugural UK Wine Awards, in association with Country Life.
The UK Wine Awards, supported by Country Life, Hotel du Vin and Waitrose, bring long-overdue recognition to what Susie Barrie calls ‘one of the most exciting wine regions in the world’.
The 12-strong judging team was co-chaired by Barrie and her fellow TV presenter, broadcaster and wine writer Oz Clarke, with the remaining experts being Masters of Wine David Bird, Richard Hemming, Alex Hunt and Phil Tuck, as well as Christine Parkinson from Hakkasan, Rebecca Hull MW from Waitrose and Hamish Anderson from Tate restaurants. They were joined by writer and broadcaster Jane Parkinson, M&S wine buyer Elizabeth Kelly and Corney & Barrow buyer Rebecca Palmer.
“People are recognising not just the quality of English and Welsh wines, but the fact that they keep getting better”
Almost 300 wines were entered from producers of all sizes, ranging from an ever-increasing selection of sparkling wines to still white, rosé and red.
Oz Clarke praised the standard of the entries and home-grown wine in general. “The winners are the epitome of the talent that lies in the winelands of the UK,” he said. “The range of winners shows just what extraordinary directions this industry is going in.
Hotel du Vin’s head sommelier Robin Roux added that people are becoming increasingly interested in English wine. “Customers are showing a real curiosity when it comes to English and Welsh wines,” he said.
“English and Welsh wines continue to impress – from the established estates that continuously produce fantastic wine, to the new producers, who are proving that even the first vintage wine can produce some excellent results…
“People are recognising not just the quality of English and Welsh wines, but the fact that they keep getting better.”
A very respectable 20 gold, 36 silver and 127 bronze medals were awarded and a trophy was granted to the finest wine in each of five categories, with additonal trophies for best still and best sparkling, plus the overall winner. Visit www.ukva.org.uk for further information.
Best sparkling Blanc de Blancs and UK Wine Awards overall winner
Coates & Seely ‘La Perfide’ Blanc de Blancs 2009
‘Fabulously elegant and refined with the seductive toasted brioche and honey notes of age’
Coates & Seely, based near Whitchurch in Hampshire, is ‘dedicated solely to the pursuit of excellence, not size,’ according to co-founder Nicholas Coates. Since 2009, he and business partner Christian Seely have been creating vintage wines only in exceptional years; its primary focus is on developing the highest possible quality non-vintage sparkling wines on a consistent basis. This is one of the company’s first wines and is 100% Chardonnay. Coates & Seely is the only English sparkling wine served at Goodwood.
Best sparkling classic cuvée
Digby Fine English Vintage Brut 2010
‘Seriously classy with a compelling mouthful of white peach, honey and freshly baked bread’
As England’s first négociant (or blending house), Digby Fine English only declares a vintage every other year, when the Chardonnay, which makes up two-thirds of the blend, is deemed to have the structure to age in a pristine, balanced way. This, Digby’s second vintage, follows the trophy-winning 2009. Released in mid 2016, the 2010 hit its stride this year. ‘Our vision is to help the world come to love English wine, with its vivacious elegance and its subtle richness,’ enthuses Trevor Clough, CEO and head blender of the company, which partners with vineyards across Kent, Sussex and Hampshire. ‘We owe much to the unique, chalky terroir of south-east England and I like to think of this wine as an international ambassador of English luxury.’
Best sparkling rosé
Coates & Seely Rosé 2009
‘From its antique gold colour to its rich sour cherry and truffle flavours, this is a graceful, mature rosé to sip and savour’
Another win for the Hampshire terroir and for Coates & Seely from its first vintage. This wine is pure ‘rosé de noirs’ – produced from the noble red Champagne grapes Pinot Noir (65%) and Pinot Meunier (35%) and allowed to age for eight years. ‘The Rosé has always been a little ahead of the Blanc de Blancs,’ explains Mr Coates. It won a Gold Medal at last year’s Decanter World Wine Awards and continues to show its winning qualities.
Best single varietal white
Bolney Wine Estate Foxhole Vineyard Pinot Gris 2016
‘A delightful example of Pinot Gris; pure, expressive and fragrant with notes of honeysuckle and spiced pear’
The story of Bolney Wine Estate began in 1972, when pioneers Janet and Rodney Pratt planted three acres of vines in rural West Sussex, creating the sixth commercial vineyard in the UK. It has since expanded to 39 acres and now boasts a state-of-the-art winery. Blessed with a perfect microclimate and sandstone soils, its grapes are all hand-picked. Sam Linter, daughter of the founders, took over in the 1990s and, today, three generations of the family are involved. Bolney Wine Estate produces white, red, rosé and sparkling wines. This is one of its most popular and 2017 will be the third year running that it’s the only English wine to be served in the boxes at Wimbledon.
Best still Bacchus
Lyme Bay Bacchus Block 2015
‘Packed with zesty lime, fennel and elderflower flavours, this is English Bacchus at its refreshing best’
Based in Devon’s beautiful Axe Valley, Lyme Bay Winery produces award-winning still and sparkling wines. Head winemaker Liam Idzikowski’s philosophy is to source the best grapes in the country and make the most outstanding, complex and characterful English wines. Rather like a Champagne house, he selects top-quality grapes from diverse UK microclimates. The Bacchus Block originates from the small dog-leg spot at Great Whitman’s Vineyard in Essex, a well-sheltered plot surrounded by forests. The resulting grapes have huge depth of character.
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