Monthly Archives: May 2016

Tasting Ridgeview’s 2013 releases

After chatting frost prevention in the vineyard on my recent visit to Ridgeview (see my blog here) it was time to head into the tasting room to try some wine. Luckily for me, their 2013 wines had just been released so I got to taste through the range.

As you might remember, the 2012 vintage was a bit of a washout in the UK with a cool, wet summer meaning low yields and a lot of rot. Indeed, Nyetimber famously declared that the quality was so low they wouldn’t produce any wine that year. So it was with a bit of a sigh of relief that, after a cold winter, 2013 enjoyed a lovely warm summer perfect for ripening grapes and resulting in an excellent vintage for the UK.

Unlike many English producers, Ridgeview only make sparkling wine and solely from the three Champagne varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. But despite this they manage to create six diverse wines, ensuring there is something to suit everyone.

Ridgeview Bloomsbury 2013

The Bloomsbury is perhaps Ridgeview’s signature wine and is certainly the most widely available. A blend of the three varieties, Bloomsbury is always Chardonnay dominant and the 2013 is 59% Chardonnay, 27% Pinot Noir and 14% Pinot Meunier.

This is a great example of English sparkling – bright and fresh with those classic green apple notes and toasty undertones. A perfect aperitif bubbles.

Ridgeview Bloomsbury 2013

Ridgeview Bloomsbury 2013 (as pictured in the Douro – the South Downs aren’t quite that hilly)

Ridgeview Cavendish 2013

The yang to Bloomsbury’s yin, Cavendish dominates on the red grapes – 40% Pinot Meunier, 26% Pinot Noir and 34% Chardonnay. This gives a very different character to the wine – richer and fuller bodied with deeper, red fruit characters rather than the brisk apple and citrus of the Bloomsbury. These richer flavours mean that I’d love to try this with some food – either some meaty fish or even some duck would be well matched by this beauty.

Ridgeview Blanc de Blancs 2013

As well as being Ridgeview’s only wine made from one variety (Chardonnay), this is also their only single estate wine with all of the grapes coming from their estate vineyard next to the winery.

Only released a couple of weeks ago, this wine unsurprisingly shows its youth being quite taut and linear. But I loved its oyster-shell minerality, racy acidity and pretty floral lift. I am sure with time it will soften and evolve more complexity too. My pick of the bunch.

Ridgeview Blanc de Noirs 2013

55% Pinot Noir, 45% Pinot Meunier. This offers a great contrast to the Blanc de Blancs and is perhaps more immediately approachable now. A deeper, more intense sparkling with red fruit characters and rich toasty notes. A contemplative wine this, one to sit back and enjoy.

Ridgeview Rosé de Noirs 2013

This is their top rosé (sadly the Fitzrovia rosé had sold out so I couldn’t taste it), made solely from Pinot Noir (59%) and Pinot Meunier (41%). Unlike the majority of English rosé sparkling (and Champagne for that matter) which is made by blending a small portion of red wine into the white base wine, this is made by the saignée method where the juice is left in contact with the skins before the grapes are pressed – meaning that some of the colour ‘bleeds’ into the juice.

This is a very pretty rosé, delicate pink in colour with crunchy red fruit and lifted floral notes. Fresh and elegant, just what you need for a garden party in the summer.

Emma

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Seedlip: a revolution in non-alcoholic drinks

As a winemonkey you might think that when I was pregnant not being able to drink wine must have been particularly tough for me. But actually I found that not drinking wine wasn’t really a problem – although I have to admit to savouring the odd glass of Champagne at special occasions. What I found harder was knowing what to drink instead of wine.

It wasn’t really during mealtimes that I had a problem – water was quite sufficient at that point. Instead it was those other drinking occasions: that pre-dinner tipple; when in a bar with friends or when everyone else was enjoying a cold beer on a sunny afternoon. At that point water seemed more than a little bit dull.

And so I experimented with various soft drinks and juices but quickly found that they were all far too sweet. Some were fine for a small glass, but I couldn’t have happily drunk more than that. I couldn’t seem to find anything that seemed like an acceptable non-alcoholic alternative that didn’t leave me feeling vaguely like I’d returned to childhood. Tonic water was my only saving grace, ticking the dry/bitter card – but it did always leave me feeling like I was missing an ingredient.

Then the other day I was introduced to a revolutionary new drink: a distilled non-alcoholic spirit. Yes, you read that right. It’s called Seedlip and I reckon it’s a game changer.

Seedlip - distilled non-alcoholic spirit

Seedlip – distilled non-alcoholic spirit

Seedlip is made with botanicals, just like gin – but without the alcohol. But rather than being based on juniper like gin is, Seedlip tastes of a complex mix of woody, heady spices like clove and cinnamon along with bitter citrus notes. Distinctly grown-up flavours.  I tried it mixed with some Fevertree tonic and discovered a delicious, refreshing drink with not even a hint of sweetness. Not dissimilar to a traditional g+t – but equally, something quite different. And completely non-alcoholic.

Launched at the end of last year, Seedlip is now available for sale in Selfridges and I hear it is also proving extremely popular in some of the top London bars and hotels as a base for non-alcoholic cocktails. I am sure the eye-catching label and elegant bottle design also don’t hurt – it certainly wouldn’t look out of place next to other premium spirits on a bar display.

So for all those mums-to-be out there, designated drivers or anyone who just fancies an alcohol-free day, you no longer need to feel like you’re choosing a drink from the kiddies menu. I just wish I’d discovered it when I was pregnant.

Emma


A visit to Ridgeview

Last Friday I was standing in the vineyards at Ridgeview on a beautiful sunny spring day and it was hard to believe that just the previous week they had been battling severe frosts and had experienced their first ever snowfall. Late spring frost is one of a viticulturist’s biggest fears as it can damage or even completely destroy the tender young buds – meaning a hugely detrimental effect on the harvest that autumn.

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This year old Jack Frost caused havoc across many regions in Northern Europe, with reports of widespread damage – including up to 80% crop loss in the Aube region of Champagne. If you haven’t seen the photos of the vineyards in Chablis tackling frost with burners illuminating every row it is well worth a look – see here. Ridgeview also use these burners (or bougies to give them their proper name) to protect their vineyards. This year the viticultural team had to light them on 8 separate nights (far more than usual) in the early hours anytime between 11pm and 3am when the vineyard temperature fell to critical levels. Impressively it takes the team just 40 minutes to light all the burners across 2.5ha of vineyard. The burners are dotted every few vines along each row and act to raise the air temperature around the vines just enough to stop the young buds getting frosted. It obviously works as, aside from some light leaf burn, Ridgeview haven’t had any major frost problems this year and so their potential crop hasn’t been affected.

So why, you may ask, have vineyards elsewhere experienced such devastating crop loss from these frosts? Well firstly the fact that England is so far north is an advantage in this case. For vineyards further south, budburst would have occurred earlier – meaning that by the time the frosts hit there were many more new shoots for the frost to damage. For once here in England we can be happy for the colder weather! Then there are also some legal issues to consider. In Champagne for example bougies are outlawed for environmental reasons. Something I’m sure many vineyard owners are grumbling about this year. Back at Ridgeview they’re also aware of these environmental concerns and so are experimenting with heated cables along some rows instead of the bougies. These run along the fruiting wire of the trellis, are powered by the electricity grid and are thermostatically controlled to turn on as soon as the temperature dips below a programmed level. Meaning the added benefit of the vineyard team not having to get out of bed in the middle of the night. So far the experiment is proving very successful – this year the vines with heated cables showed no frost damage whatsoever, not even any leaf burn.

The heated cable at Ridgeview protecting the young shoots from frost

The heated cable at Ridgeview protecting the young shoots from frost

Of course there are still many months ahead before harvest will begin at Ridgeview and a lot can happen in that time. Indeed, the risk of spring frost doesn’t really pass until the end of May. But for the viticultural team the first major hurdle of their season is almost out of the way and things are looking good for now. Let’s hope that continues as the summer arrives.

I’ll report on Ridgeview’s new 2013 releases in my next post.

Emma