The winemakers of England and Wales have worked wonders with the incredible grape crop from the hot summer of 2018, as Harry Eyres explains.
I must admit that, until recently, I was a Bacchus-sceptic — and, in particular, an English Bacchus-sceptic. Of course, I am a devotee of the Roman god of wine, but the grape variety Bacchus, a 1950s German crossing of Müller-Thurgau with Riesling X Silvaner — well suited to ripening in English conditions — always seemed to me to produce excessively aromatic, over-elderflowery whites.
The unprecedentedly high-quantity and high-quality 2018 vintage in England and Wales has changed all that. In 2018, Bacchus came into its own by producing whites that are vinous as well as aromatic; they have body and texture to add to the hedgerow scents of English wines.
Pundits have talked up Bacchus as the English Sauvignon Blanc for years and, now, I’m beginning to believe them.
What to buy
Bolney Wine Estate in West Sussex is one of my favourite English producers — quietly sure of itself and making an excellent range of wines. Bolney Wine Estate Lychgate Bacchus 2018 (£12.99; www.bolneywineestate.com) strikes you with firm minerality rather than exaggerated aromas and has excellent texture.
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A step up, Bolney Wine Estate Bacchus 2018 (£17.99; www.bolneywineestate.com) is notably saline on the palate, structured and dry.
Chapel Down in Kent is one of the best English wine producers for both still and sparkling styles. Chapel Down Bacchus 2018 (£90.98 for six bottles from www.justerinis.com) is quite powerfully aromatic — there’s elderflower, but not too much — yet tempers that with finesse and minerality.
Finally, Bacchus shows its worth as a blending component in Denbies Wine Estate Ranmore Hill 2017 (£17; www.theenglishwinecollection.co.uk). Vanilla notes combine with florality and creaminess.
Sauternes and its kin are too delicious to be left to languish, urges Harry Eyres.
There is quality to be found at remarkably reasonable prices, discovers Harry Eyres