It’s a not one his best-known songs but there is a Bruce Springsteen track called ‘From small things big things one day come’ and I as I stood in a Hampshire Vineyard with a baby Pinot Noir vine in my hand recently I couldn’t help but hum it to myself. I was helping plant new vines at Jenkyn Place Vineyard in north Hampshire, but in many ways the title of that song tells the tale of the of the whole of the English wine industry. In what seems a few short years this fledgling industry has gone from relative obscurity to capturing the imagination of not only UK wine consumers but, and whisper this very quietly, now even the great and the good of Champagne are looking over their shoulders to the South Downs.
Jenkyn Place was bought by Simon Bladon in 1997 and after a chance encounter with a glass of English Fizz in 2003 he began to plant vines in old hop fields near to his house. Today the farm is planted with the classic Champagne varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and last week saw the planting of a further vineyard with new Pinot Noir vines to help meet the demand for their sparkling wines. Sadly, the vines I helped plant won’t be part of a finished bottle of fizz for at least 7 years but in the meantime the sparkling wines of Jenkyn Place are without doubt worth seeking out.
Jenkyn Place Classic Cuvée Brut 2013 (www.Jenkynplace.com £29.50, Waitrose £24.99) is a blend of all three grapes with Chardonnay very much the main player with 62% of the blend and it spent 3 years ageing on its lees before release. The nose is still very fresh and instantly appealing with notes of green apples, citrus and hints of cashews, followed by quite a broad palate with that tell-tale English sparkling wine characteristic of pure, almost steely acidity and great clarity. It’s all beautifully integrated and makes a lovely aperitif but also would be the perfect partner to classic English Fish and Chips.
Jenkyn Place Rosé 2014 2013 (www.Jenkynplace.com £35.00 ) is again a blend of all three classic Champagne varieties bit this time with Pinot Noir taking the lead role. The 2014 vintage was a great year for English fizz and it shows here. Very pretty in the glass with a fine bead of bubbles and a lovely pale pink colour, the bouquet is all about an English summer with its soft red fruits and there is also a touch of citrus fruit and a little spice. The palate is very fresh with more red fruits and crisp acidity, before a long, elegant finish. This is gorgeous sparkling wine to enjoy on a summer’s evening in the garden.
Jenkyn Place Blanc de Noir 2010 (www.Jenkynplace.com £35.00) is probably my favourite wine in the current line up at the moment mainly because I really like sparkling wine with a little bottle age which can add to the complexity. It’s a bend of 50% Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and shows green apple, pear, citrus and a touch of biscuit on the nose, the palate is still very fresh with real structure and a long, beguiling finish. This is fantastic wine and I can only hope that the Pinot noir vines I helped plant will one day produce a wine as good as this. As Bruce said from small things……