My virtual tour of England’s vineyards was part of our Christmas wine choices and included Stopham Vineyard, nestled in the South Downs of Sussex on the south coast of England, a 15 acres site planted with 21,000 vines in 2007. As usual therefore, by European standards, Stopham is an infant, a babe in arms if measured by age, but they are a giant in quality and sustainability terms just like every other English vineyard. What attracted me to them is the fact that as well as planting the classic champagne threesome and the quintessential Bacchus vines, Simon Woodhead an ex designer for the McLaren Formula One team, planted Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. This was really visionary because Simon saw an opportunity for these two varietals to ripen in the vineyard environment which included sandy soils. Back to the two Pinots in a moment, but first here’s a short video from the Stopham website showing the picturesque vineyard surrounded by trees, and the precision with which they make their wines:
Stopham are in the centre of the English wine revolution along with many others in the English counties of Sussex and Kent. There’s plenty of history down here to go with your wine such as Battle Abbey in the village of the same name where the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066, but I doubt if that was an omen for English wines! There’s a re-enactment of the battle every year run by English Heritage and well worth a visit.
Back to the wines ….. Pinot Gris is perhaps better known as Pinot Grigio, that well known and often relatively tasteless wine poured down many a throat on Friday night binges! What most people won’t know however is that it is a “red/blue” grape making white wine because the grapes are pressed and the skins removed before the wine can be coloured.
Here is the Stopham description of their Pinot Gris 2018:
“Our Pinot Gris is off-dry, with aromatic peach and pear fruit alongside the floral character on the nose. On the palate, this has excellent balance with crisp acidity. It is fairly full in body, with plenty of juicy fruit intensity, but is refreshing and long, with a lively citrus and stone fruit finish. Excellent with spicy dishes and roast pork.”
And now my own tasting note from Christmas Day opened for our starter course which was a charcuterie based on meats of boar and marsh pig and a little smoked salmon:
“On opening I get an earthy sort of aroma, quite strange, then on first taste it’s the crisp acidity that hits you and lasts a long time. Peach and citrus are the main fruits I detect, and despite the initial acid kick it’s well balanced and with a long finish. Definitely off dry as the sweetness tinge definitely comes through at the end.”
A Special Occasion Wine £16.00
An excellent wine and definitely a winner for Stopham, their gamble with this grape in England will pay off and they deserve it. A definite four star wine and another Wine of Joy! I just don’t know enough about its ageing potential to give it five stars. Next Stopham wine to try …. the Pinot Blanc which has a lot to compete with because Alsace in France produces some stunners.