Weather wise we are in the middle of the most extraordinary summer, the warmest we are led to believe since the summer of 1976. One of the major beneficiaries of this is the English wine industry with producers indicating they are in for a bumper harvest both in terms of quality and volume. It’s never easy making wine in a marginal climate and so to experience a summer like this is a welcome reward for English vineyard owners after experiencing frosts and rain over the last few years. These are exciting times for English wine, the industry is expanding rapidly, it is estimated that 1 million vines were planted last year and that over 1.5 million will be planted this year. The recent arrival of two major Champagne Houses – Taittinger in Kent and Pommery in Hampshire – is a further indication of the potential that there is in the vineyards of southern England. If you want to get a taste, quite literally, of what all the excitement is about, then Sunday 11thAugust sees the second Hambledon Vineyard Wine Festival, a great opportunity to sample the wines of one of the UK’s leading producers, walk amongst the vines and take a tour through the winery itself. The Festival will also include a range of local artisan food producers, music and the first appearance of the ‘Hambledon Bus’ – the recently unveiled iconic British double decker decorated and adapted to take the vineyard on tour to events and festivals around the country. The Festival has also organised a series of Wine Masterclasses, which allows visitors the opportunity to explore wine in a little more depth under the guidance of some of the team from the winery. As well as Food and Wine pairing Masterclasses including what to pair with cheese and chocolate, the highlight for me will be the Hampshire Wine Talk and Tasting, where Hambledon MD Ian Kellet will discuss the current Hampshire Wine scene.
Hambledon currently produce three sparkling wines and if I had to choose one to whet your taste buds, particularly in the middle of this gorgeous British summer it would be Hambledon Classic Cuvée Rosé NV . Made from a blend 90% Chardonnay, a very small proportion of which had some oak ageing and 10% Pinot Noir, this is a very classy wine and, in my opinion, currently one of the top examples of English sparkling rosé. A beautiful vivid pale pink colour with a bouquet that just reminds you of an English summer, with strawberries and red cherries, followed by a crisp palate with more red fruits, citrus, minerals and just a touch of oyster shell, before a long beautifully detailed finish. Proof, if it was needed that the English Sparkling industry has truly arrived!
Hambledon Wine Festival, The Vineyard, Hambledon – Sunday 11th August from 11am to 4pm. Tickets start from £20 each which includes a souvenir glass. Tickets and information on the masterclasses – www.hambledonvineyars.co.uk– a limited amount of tickets will be available on the door on the day.