English Sparkling Wine:
A Social Enterprise
Organic Wine Tasting,
Featuring a speaker from Forty Hall Vineyard
Friday 15th February
(Finish 7.30 appx.)
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2017 was the vintage for English wine. A long, hot, dry summer meant grapes were riper in character and more prodigious in quantity, with many producers reporting twice their usual yield. This increased volume, and the increasing probability of significant duty increases from wine imported from the EU means you’re more likely to see more English wines this year.
Given that our sparkling wines are increasingly the envy of the world (and were exported to 42 countries last year), we’ve been curiously slow to adopt this high quality domestic product, despite it comparing well to Champagnes in blind tastings. High quality sparkling wines are built around a spine of acidity, and cool climates foster acidity — and as climate change warms the customarily cool Champagne region, there have been nervous glances across the channel, (and some significant investments,) from the relatively southerly Champenois.
But perhaps the copy cat approach of English sparkling wine has led to consumer reluctance to switch from Champagne. And with the 2017 harvest, many English sparkling wine producers will increase their stock of base wine, enabling them to make consistent Non Vintage English Sparkling Wines. This, though, may be giving up a unique selling point – the availability, and affordability, of English vintage sparkling wines. A bottle of vintage champagne would generally cost you two to four times the £30- £35 cost of an English vintage.
Smaller producers, of the kind the Greenhouse work with and champion, are more likely to keep making vintage English Sparkling, and at this tasting you will have a unique chance to taste four vintages… 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013.
The latter two are from our long-standing favourite, Will Davenport. Will also made the wines for the former two, but the grapes were lovingly grown on ten acres of vines in Enfield, London, at Forty Hall Vineyard.
Forty Hall Vineyard is a social enterprise, a near unique example of how quality wine production can be a force for environmental and social good. Whilst producing high quality wines (the eminent Jancis Robinson is a particular fan), they are a community and volunteer-driven project. They offer a resource for many adults with mild to moderate mental health support needs, offer community to people who may feel socially excluded, and also offer on-the-job training in viticulture to those keen to work in the field.
Putting a local and supportive community at the heart of wine production is a rare thing. Wine production often reinforces social divisions, with an unyielding hierarchy of landowners right down to the itinerant peasant labour depended upon at harvest. Our insight into an alternative model will be deepened by a guest speaker from FHV to introduce their wines.
As a highly regarded innovative wine producer, FHV is inundated with requests to speak at tastings, but have made a priority of visiting a grassroots environmental charity like the Greenhouse. And they have kindly saved the last remaining bottles of 2017 Ortega and Bacchus, still wines that are officially sold out, for our tasting. English still wines have undergone a recent revolution, as we move away from the hardy hybrid vines (like Seyval Blanc) to earlier ripening vinifera varieties.
Regulars will note an earlier start time to our tasting, with an earlier finish allowing you to go home (or continue on) for dinner. Attendees on the night will also enjoy 10% discounts on any bottles of FHV sparkling wine bought on the night — so bring your shopping bags, and remember that our purchases support not just a producer but a paradigm.
London Sparkling Brut 2016, Forty Hall Vineyard, 11.5%, £33. Grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Meunier.
London Sparkling Brut 2015, Forty Hall Vineyard, 11.5%, £33. Grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Meunier.
Auxerrois Sparkling 2014, Davenport Vineyards, 12%, £29. Grape variety: Auxerrois.
Limney Estate Brut 2013, Davenport Vineyards, 11.5%, £30. Grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Meunier, Auxerrois.
Bacchus 2017, Forty Hall Vineyard, Grape variety: Bacchus. Not for sale – FHV have reserved their final bottles for our tasting.
Ortega 2017, Forty Hall Vineyard, Grape variety: Ortega. Not for sale – FHV have reserved their final bottles for our tasting.
Bread from Timberhill Bakery.
Feedback from our last organic wine tasting:
‘Delicious – an interesting selection and I have learnt a great deal about wine this evening.’
‘Very good – good company and conversation.’
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