Today seemed the perfect occasion to write about a wonderful English winery called Chapel Down. I’ve been meaning to write about these wines for a long time, having tasted them about two years ago during a trade fair in New York.
Prince Philip’s passing reminded me of these English sparklers and I thought today was the day. I knew little of Philip’s long life but like so many others have spent part of the pandemic watching The Crown. Reading his obituary and seeing the photos of his extraordinary journey is akin to looking at a century of European history unfolding from Greek-Turkish conflicts, through to World War II, Nazi Germany, and so many events since that time.
Chapel Down is located in Tenterden, in the Kent countryside. They make sparkling wines using both traditional grapes – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and the traditional method. The chalky white soils and climate allow for these grapes to thrive in this area. They both own vineyards and buy grapes from other growers from Essex to Hampshire in a quest to make a balanced house style. Their winemaker Josh Donaghay-Spire is looking to make wines that are fresh, vibrant and balanced.
From my notes on the three wines I tasted, a Brut NV, a Rosé and the Three Graces, he succeeded. I loved these wines with classic yeast, toast and brioche aromas as well as white citrus fruit, apple and pear and floral aromas and flavors. The Rosé was 100% Pinot Noir and was elegant and restrained with hints of strawberry and raspberry with great racy acidity. The Three Graces was particularly evolved with more aging and complexity and honeyed fruit and bread aromas. The texture of the wines showed the lees aging regimes they use.
I remember being very impressed with these beauties and continually going back to the stand to try them. The wines are readily available here in the US should you be up for a new sparkler.