I was fortunate enough to be invited to a lunch and tour of the exquisite Danebury Vineyards last week. The vineyard is perched atop the North Downs close to the beautiful village of Stockbridge. With only 7 acres of vines, Danebury is fairly small, but boy is it pretty. The vines were first planted in 1988, with the first vintage coming in 1993.
Too enthralled to take any snaps (apologies), this blog entry is lacking in pictures of the visit I’m afraid, but I’ve slotted in some of those they sent us when we put their producer page together last year..!
The vines planted in the vineyard are not those most would expect to be grown in the UK. Aside from the Madeleine Angevine and Schönburger, which make the delicate still whites produced at Danebury, there are plantings of Auxerrois Blanc (which is a cross between Gouais Blanc and Pinot Noir) and Ruländer (aka Pinot Gris), which go into making the Cossack. The Cossack is a delicate sparkling wine bottle fermented and rested on lees for at least 5 years. The most recent release is the 2005, which picked up a bronze medal this year at the IWSC and won the Wessex Vineyard Association wine of the year trophy.
I was lucky enough to be shown around the vineyard by the owner, who then showed me down to his custom built underground cellar, where all the wines are stored at a fairly constant temperature (never rising about 14ºc). Also in the cellar was the private collection of every vintage from 1993 to present. An impressive cabinet to say the least.
Following the tour of the cellar, I was sat down to a tasting of the three stills produced – a Madeleine Angevine, a Schönburger, and a Reserve (the latter contains a blend of the whole vineyard in the planted percentages). These were served with spelt bread and rosemary infused olive oil.
- The Madeleine Angevine 2009 is a light and delicate wine, with big flavours of melon, citrus and pear. A good balance of acid and sweetness make this a perfect match for seafood or white meats.
- The Schönburger 2009 again is well balanced, offering a floral, aromatic nose, followed by dry palate with a clean finish and good length.
- The Reserve 2010 is a fuller wine, with noticeable characteristics from each of the five grapes that go into the blend. A touch of sweetness makes this wine that little bit more complex, when balanced with the backbone of acidity from the Auxerrois and Ruländer. There is a good sense of minerality on the finish.
Then we tucked into a vertical tasting of the most recent vintages from 2006 working our way back to 2002. The owner says that he aims for a more cremant style, with less aggressive bubbles than a Champagne style wine, and as such he believes that within 10 years the wines have reached their shelf life. Of course the flavours are still there, but the bubbles somewhat dissipate over time.
- The 2006 was served with a smoked salmon, which went very well with the citrus palate and the acid of the Auxerrois. The wine is a bit young, and as such has not yet been released.
- The 2005 (the current release) was served with quails eggs and asparagus in a crusty wholewheat tartlet. An absolutely perfect pairing. The malty brioche and citrus nose matched the sweetness from the tartlet, and the asparagus allowed the acids to flow freely and helped to detect a hint of floral palate. The eggs were a gentle creamy touch to meet the biscuity aromas and flavours.
- The 2004 was served with a simple parmesan crusted puff pastry, which made the acids soften and allowed the autolytic nature of the wine to breathe.
- The 2003 was served with a delicious goose liver paté on rye bread. A delicious wine that is probably at the peak of its ageing now. Excellent acids and still a good amount of fruitiness, this wine ate up the paté!
- Last, but definitely not least, was the 2002. This wine was served with Somerset brie on Oatcakes. Again a perfect pairing – there was caramel and biscuit on the nose, which worked ideally with the sweet oatcakes, and the creamy, delicate brie was almost perfect for the nose and acids of the wine.
We are now selling the Danebury Vineyards Cossack 2005 at a superb discounted price of £20.48 and you may well see the still wines making a guest appearance now too!