The Crouch Valley: England's finest wine producing region?Friday, October 4
As picking begins on the 2019 English grape harvest this week, we would like to introduce some Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines from what may well turn out to be the most exciting corner of England for still wine production.
Whilst millions are invested in sparkling wine production on Sussex's South Downs and similar areas, a more low-key winemaking revolution has been gathering pace on the coast of Essex.
Despite its prosaic location, the Crouch Valley has some unique grape-growing attributes. The nearby tidal River Crouch helps to protect against spring frosts, dissipating the cold air. Low rainfall and a warm microclimate allow for a long ripening period for noble varieties like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which in cooler areas only attain the kind of ripeness suitable for sparkling wines.
Martin's Lane Vineyard is a small concern established by a group of family and friends in 2008. Local vineyard guru Duncan McNeill oversees the viticulture. He left a career in UK agriculture to train in New Zealand and now manages half a dozen excellent estates in this area. John Worontschack, one of the most experienced winemakers working in the UK, vinifies the wines.
These are some of the first English Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines we have tasted which offer a real alternative to their French counterparts. The 2016 Pinot Noir has some real depth of fruit and an earthy dimension which adds interest. We pitted the 2016 Chardonnay against a Chablis for comparison and can easily imagine pairing this with some fine native oysters from the Blackwater Estuary at Maldon, just a few miles away.
For reasons we have yet to establish, Martin's Lane also produce a Pinot Noir Blanc...we are glad they do because it's delicious! The 2018 is a full-textured, medium-bodied white with a beautiful stone fruit character, but if the 2016 we tasted is anything to go by it will flesh out and acquire an uncanny resemblance to red Pinot Noir, with red berry fruit aromas. We have a small quantity of the 2016 available for immediate drinking or, if you can wait a few months, the 2018 should offer even more excitement.
Just a few years ago we would not have dreamed we would be writing an offer about wines from coastal Essex! This is something genuinely new and rather exciting, so we do hope you will try them.
As an inducement to try these wines across the range we can offer a discount of 5% on orders of 24 bottles or more, in any combination.