The Judgement of HampshireEnglish wine has come along way in an incredibly short time, no longer the hobby of a few weekend enthusiasts, this is an industry that seems to have almost come from nowhere. The statistics behind this growth are nothing short of extraordinary, the last 10 years the number of planted vines has more than doubled and is set to grow a further 50% by 2020. Wine production is set to double in volume from last year’s 5m bottles to 10m by 2020, and the driver behind all of this is sparkling wines, with the classic Champagne grapes of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier now accounting for over 50% of total plantings. However with all this activity is the quality of the wine, and sparkling wines in particular, high enough to engage the consumer beyond the notion of novelty? Global wine tasting competitions and a number of organised ‘blind wine tasting’ events over the last few years would appear to show that English sparkling wine really is delivering quality good enough to stand shoulder to shoulder with other quality sparkling wine regions in the world, including Champagne. But how about putting that to the test with some of Hampshire’s finest sparkling wines and a selection of widely available champagnes? The Judgement of Hampshire was organised during English Wine Week to put this to the test, a panel including some regional leading members of the regional catering industry and some everyday consumers assembled at Hambledon Vineyard to blind taste 4 Grande Marque Champagne against 4 Hampshire Sparkling wines. The very fact that this tasting could be considered in the first place, says much about the current state of play, I’m not sure that this would have been possible even 5 years ago, and the results are nothing short of a vindication for all those hours of hard work by the winemakers of Hampshire. The criteria for the tasting was that all the wines should be readily available and be less than £40rrp, they were all served blind in a random order, and it should be remembered that a tasting such as this is merely a snapshot of how the wines showed on a specific day and not necessarily a definitive ranking. Each wine was marked out of 20 by the panel and the scores were then added together to provide the final result. The tasters all agreed that this was a fascinating tasting, and despite being asked not to, many tried to work out which was from Hampshire and which was Champagne, making their task even harder it seemed. The results put not one Hampshire fizz ahead of the 4 Champagnes but 2, with all showing very well. It was perhaps fitting that Hambledon Classic Cuvée NV, the UK’s oldest commercial vineyard and revitalised by Ian Kellet when he bought the property in 1999, came out on top on the day. The wine is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and is currently a blend from the 2013, 2010, 2011 and 2012 vintages, made by winemaker Hervé Jestin, who has spent most of his life making wine in Champagne and who since 2011 has overseen all winemaking at Hambledon. Cottonworth Classic Cuvée Brut NV was the judge’s second favorite fizz on the day, again a blend of the 3 classic Champagne grapes. Situated just south of Andover, with the first vines planted in 2005, and like Hambledon the vines are planted on chalk soils, similar in make up to those found in Champagne.
Monday 30th May 2016
Monday 30th May 2016
It was agreed by all the tasters that that the quality was high across the board and that, as the results show the Hampshire wines more than held their own against their spiritual cousins from Champagne. The tasting was an opportunity to see just where Hampshire and its vineyards stood today, Champagne has been producing the ultimate celebration wine for well over 200 years, it appears that Hampshire is ready to join the party.
“The wines competing were superb!!! And I felt happily surprised by the high standard of the English competitors running the game without any shyness, not even close to feel intimidated by the big boys from over the Channel, showing mussels and finesse at the same time, the freshness of the fruit supported by the skills of the wine makers, a well-balanced combination of elegance and personality already giving little clues about the microclimate, soil and winemaking style” Francesco Gabriele, Head Sommelier, Chewton Glen Hotel.
Lawrence Murphy – Chef Proprietor, Fat Olives Restaurant
Giles Babb – Proprietor, The Blue Bell Inn
Francesco Gabriele – Head Sommelier, Chewton Glenn Hotel
Angus Eitel – Consumer
Rita Wakefield – Consumer
Loughlan Campbell – Journalist, The News, Portsmouth
Alistair Gibson – Chair of the panel – non-judging
The full results are below with the scores for each wine (out of a possible 120).
1. Hambledon Classic Cuvée, Hampshire - total score 93
2. Cottonworth Classic Cuvée, Hampshire - total score 91
3. Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut NV, Champagne - total score 87
4. Exton Park Blanc de Blancs 2011, Hampshire - total score 86
5. Hattingley Valley Classic Cuvée 2013, Hampshire - total score 84
6. Laurent-Perrier Brut NV, Champagne - total score 83
7. Canard-Duchene Brut NV, Champagne - total score 75
8. Moet et Chandon Brut Imperial NV, Champagne - total score 75
Alistair Gibson – 1st June 2016