Talk: - BRUCE and SYBILLA TYNDALE of HIGH CLANDON VINEYARD
"Good wine is made in the vineyard" - it depends on the grape.
Bruce began with a History of English Wine, starting with the Romans who grew wine locally wherever they went (back in Roman times, I presume, wine didn't travel well). Once the Romans had departed, wine production reduced as the population in the Dark
Ages preferred beer and mead. But in 600AD St Augustine revived wine production and consumption began to grow. Then, Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine and her dowry was all the Vineyards of Bordeaux and much of the Loire (which must go some way to explain
the English love of wines from the two regions). But, when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries English Wine production again went into decline and an outbreak of Phylloxera in the 17th century pretty much finished off the industry until a revival in the 1930s.
But the big breakthrough began at Nytimber in the 1990s with their groundbreaking English Sparkling Wines.
A couple of little known facts from the Tyndales - The English developed Champagne (but I won't tell the Champenois
if you don't...) and created the Champagne bottle in the 1600's. In Tudor times, coal replaced wood for burning in furnaces as the wood was needed for warships. The higher temperatures generated from burning coal enabled glass blowers to produce the stronger
glass needed to contain liquid under pressure. And, in the past 10 years English Sparkling Wine (ESW) has won more top wine awards/prizes than any other region, including Champagne.
High CLANDON vineyard is on the chalk of
the Surrey Hills, with only 1 acre of vines. The team works very hard to produce the good grapes needed for great wines. Each year is a vintage, hence the proportions of the 3 Classic Cuvée grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) changes
from year to year.
"If the grapes aren't good enough for your cheeseboard then they aren't good enough for your wine" quote from English Sparkling Wine expert Hans Schleifer.
Bruce described the winemaking process: the first stage Vin Clair has the elderflower scent of the Surrey Hills. After 6 months initial fermentation it is bottled with sugar & yeast for its second fermentation under a crown cap and
laid down (on the lees) for 5 years. The longer it's kept under pressure the finer the mousse i.e. tinier bubbles. Once the lees is removed (disgorged) the final dosage is added, then the bottle is laid down for another 6 months and is then, finally, ready
High Clandon has a glass barn for tasting by private appointment. Its Celebration Cuvée, currently on sale, is from grapes harvested 7 years ago. High Clandon is also making its name in Wine Tourism - the
International Wine Challenge has High Clandon and Denbies as its 2017 finalists. I'm definitely going to visit soon to check out the accommodatio and hopefully take a lesson in sabrage from Sybilla.
After the talk I took the opportunity
to taste both the High Clandon Rosé and Celebration Cuvée, courtesy of Cellar Wines. I discovered that aged wines are indeed smoother and more balanced, just as Bruce described them. The higher price tag reflects their superior quality.
However, if ever there was a wine for a truly special event, this is it. I recommend you push the boat out and try it at least once - and if like me you fall in love with it, start saving now to buy it for Christmas - or start writing to Santa Claus!
High Clandon Estate Vineyard highclandon.co.uk
email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01483 225660.
website for details of tours and tasting.
Wines available from Cellar Wines, Ripley - See website for other stockists.