England has come along very nicely in the past few years in its wine production.
As little as 20 years ago, you would be hard pressed to find quality English wine for sale. Nowadays, it seems that great wines are popping up all over the place. Although many cool climate varieties have been planted here, the ones that have proven to be most successful are varieties such as Muller Thurgau, Ortega and Bacchus.
I’m talking about the production of still table wines as opposed to sparkling wines. The sparkling wine production has evolved to using mostly the traditional Champagne grapes (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.)
Ortega and Bacchus may not be all that familiar to the average wine drinker but one variety that has not been grown here is Pinot Blanc, also known as Pinot Grigio. Now Pinot Grigo may not have the best reputation here in the UK. It is usually thought of as an easy-drinking quaffer that one buys at the pub on Friday night after work. Not all Pinot Grigio fits that profile but that is for another day to discuss.
Pinot Grigio then, also known as Pinot Blanc, grows very well in Alsace. It’s not as common as say Riesling from the region but Pinot Blanc when done properly produces refreshing wines with body and character. I came across a Pinot Blanc not long ago when I was visiting Brighton. This Pinot Blanc was interesting because it had been grown and produced just down the road from Brighton, the vineyard being situated in West Sussex.
Stopham Estates has only been around for less than 10 years but they think that they have found a great spot for Pinot Blanc production. The assistant wine maker Tom, was pouring the wine and he told me that they have been quite successful with the Pinot. I tried it and I have to say, it was nothing like a white English table wine I’ve ever had. Usually, white English table wine has the tell tale flavours and aromas of elderflower and is at most medium bodied.
The 2010 Stopham Estates pinot blanc had heft and weight to it. It was pleasantly grapefruity with citrus note to it, as well as a slight hint of almonds at the end. A surprising wine and one I was happy to find. Unfortunately, production is very small and the vineyard only sells locally or from the cellar door. However, if you happen to find yourself in Brighton, I’d definitely recommend seeking out this English Pinot Blanc. Remember, you heard about it here first.