I grew up in California and so the word “ortega” always reminds me of green chilies, of which ortega is a brand. So, you can imagine my surprise when I was introduced to the Ortega grape variety when I moved to the UK.
Here in the UK, wine production has taking off in a big way; English sparkling wine now regularly wins top prizes in wine competitions. The majority of award-winning English sparkling wine is made using the traditional Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with the occasional cool climate varietal thrown into the mix. Ortega is not usually used in sparkling production but it is a cool-climate variety that fits in perfectly with the English summertime and is rapidly becoming known for producing excellent still table wines.
Biddenden Vineyards is located in the Kent countryside and the oldest commercial vineyard in the area. The vineyards were planted in 1969 and they mainly cultivate German varietals: Ortega, Huxelrebe, Bacchus, Schonburger and Reichensteiner. What makes the Biddenden vineyards ideal in the relatively cool English countryside is the fact that the vines are planted on a south facing slope and are in a sheltered valley. All of these conditions make it an ideal site for the grapes to mature fully, something that is not always possible with our rainy, not so warm summers.
I tried the Biddenden 2010 Gribble Bridge ortega dry, a white wine, the other day with a lunch of steamed mussels at 52 North Bar & Kitchen in Soho and it was a fantastic match.
Ortega can sometimes be an off-dry wine but the Gribble Bridge is crisp and fresh with no residual sugar or overly sweet fruit permeating your palate. The wine is not as aromatic as English wines can sometimes be, a faint note of chalk and green apples on the nose. Tasting it, it was full of grapefruit and orange peel flavours: very refreshing, full of fruit; dry but not bone dry. I really liked the Gribble Bridge and with the mussels, it was a good match, the briny mussels becoming more flavourful with the wine.
Gribble Bridge is available in some shops but why not take a trip to the Kentish countryside? The winery offers public tours and their vineyard shop is open year-round. The Gribble Bridge retails for just under £10 on their website. If you’ve had any hesitations about English wine, the Gribble Bridge should bring you ’round.