Peter Ranscombe straps himself into a vinous DeLorean to sample five vintages of Bolney’s Blanc de Blanc English sparkling wine.
ONE of the most exciting elements of opening an older bottle of wine is remembering at what stage of your life you were in the year that the grapes were harvested.
Where were you living? Where were you working? Are the people who were important in your life back then sitting next to you to enjoy a glass of the wine today?
Such vinous time-travelling can evoke memories – some happy, some sad – and highlights how wine can capture a moment in time.
As well as a flight of four pinot noirs from recent years, the estate also presented a vertical tasting of six blanc de blanc English sparkling wines.
Choosing to show its blanc de blanc – made entirely from chardonnay grapes – meant that the different characteristics of the different wines was down to the variations between the different vintages; and also how the wines were ageing in their bottles.
English sparkling wine production is still relatively small, so it’s not often that the chance arises to try multiple vintages together, which is why opportunities like those presented by Bolney and earlier in the year by Jenkyn Place are such a treat.
Bolney’s 2015 (£28, Noble Green Wines) demonstrated a fantastic balance between its fruit and its acidity for such a young sparkling wine, with a rounded mouthfeel accompanying the lemon aromas and flavours.
I’d be really interested to try the 2014 (£29.95, Davy’s) again in a few years’ time; for me, the acidity still needs a bit of time to soften, although the refreshing grapefruit and lemon flavours are already asserting themselves and the crispness would make it a good match for seafood at this stage.
It was a similar story for me with the 2013 (£27.95, Davy’s); another good food pairing at this stage and certainly one to which it would be interesting to return once more of the acidity has softened, which I suspect will reveal even more flavour.
While the 2011 (£24, The Champagne Company) had a vegetal note on the nose, the palate featured much fresher fruit, with the characteristic lemon and grapefruit flavours being joined by rounder lemon curd notes.
Starting to age
Stepping a year further back in time, it was the 2010 (£28.50, Hawkins Bros) that was my favourite on the day, with a crunch of biscuit joining the more intense flavours of lemon zest, helping the more-concentrated fruit to balance the acidity.
The oldest wine on show was the 2009 (£35.40, The English Wine Centre), which was developing even more biscuity aromas and flavours with age, with the fruit morphing into orange marmalade and lime curd.
Yet the acidity on the 2009 is still razor sharp – again, a bit more age and a bit more softening could yield something even more interesting and complex.