I was looking for somewhere to take my Grandfather on a May afternoon, and I could not resist making it a vineyard. I knew very little about Nutbourne Vineyards before visiting but it transpired to be a gorgeous spot on the South Downs. The wines are not to be scoffed at either with Nutbourne producing a full range of wines from English sparkling to a still Pinot Noir. The quality of English sparkling wine seems to rise year on year and Nutbourne were among seven UK producers receiving Gold Medals at this years IWSC competition.
Nutbourne Vineyards was founded in 1980, with a new modern winery completed in 2010. The wine is currently made by ex-Chapel Down winemaker Owen Elias, who has a host of awards in his name, including quite a few whilst at Nutbourne. The wine shop and tasting room are based around a disused mill with covered seating and the opportunity to walk between the vines. The member of staff that served us was courteous and knowledgeable making the visit a very enjoyable afternoon. Nutbourne Vineyards also provide guided tours/tastings of the vineyards and winery with prior reservations for a cost of £15.
Wines Tasted: Nutty Brut 2013, Sussex Reserve 2014, Bacchus 2013/2014, Chardonnay 2013, Hedgerow 2013, Nutty “Wild” N.V., Pinot Noir 2014
Nutty Brut 2013
Price: £22, IWSC 2016: Gold medal.
This was the first wine I tasted and I came with no expectation. The gold medal here is well deserved. A richness of Pinot fruit greets you on the nose, with yeasty brioche rounding out the aromas. The palate is dry and presents pear, peach and green apple with high acidity giving focus. The mouthfeel is pleasing with a fine mousse and sufficient length of bubbles given this was from a stoppered bottle. The wine feels slightly green but in this case it makes it all the more refreshing.
Interestingly this wine is made with a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Reichensteiner. I suspect this third partner contributes to the green nature of the palate and lifts the typical champagne blend with additional crisp freshness.
Given that I bought a bottle I whole-heartedly recommend this for a summer afternoon. Serve this in place of champagne and show your guests the joy of the English sparkling wine. Score: 90/100 (DT).
Sussex Reserve 2014
Price: £11.50 IWSC 2016: Bronze Medal
Again I can see how this wine is deserving of a medal. The Nutbourne Brut was a tough act to follow, and still wine from the UK typically has a much tougher time. This wine is a blend of Bacchus, Huxelrebe and Reichensteiner, (3 German grapes that have found popularity in the UK).
The nose on this was incredibly aromatic and dominated by pear. The pear followed through on to the palate with a slight soapy (perhaps I mean floral) note on the mid palate. The acidity was just sufficient to keep the wine in balance to the finish. This reminded me of something like a Gerwurztraminer or Viognier.
I would probably score this in the range of 86-88/100, but the intensity on the nose is noteworthy. This is a pretty good effort for still English wine.
Price: £13.50 UKVA 2015: Gold medal for 2014 vintage.
Unfortunately the vintage on my tasting note doesn’t match up on this particular bottle so I cannot be certain whether this was the 2013 or 2014. The wine tasted was slightly less aromatic than the Sussex Reserve, or at least the nose was less focused. Despite this the wine impressed, trading a slightly lighter body for higher acidity. I predominantly got pear and apple on the palate. This was an enjoyable Bacchus and a strong effort. I would score the sample tasted in this in the mid eighties.
This is an unoaked Chardonnay – a grape I very much enjoy. Given the climate in the South of England ripening Chardonnay sufficiently for still wine seems to be a challenge. Whilst the wines will not rival those of warmer climates for power, weight and intensity, marginal climate Chardonnay has plenty to offer. I am pleased to see this has been left unoaked as it is a great way to present the freshness and precision that the cooler climate brings. I found this sample to be very green, with fresh flavours and high acidity. The palate was gooseberry and apples with the acidity and underlying minerality keeping the wine clean on the finish.
Tasty, precise but just not quite ripe enough for my palate. Score: 79/100 (DT)
This is a off dry blend of Bacchus and Schoenberger. Slightly sweeter than the other wines tasted it had more of an Alsation feel to it. This wine tasted primary and refreshing with gooseberry, pears and perhaps stone fruit. The acidity was high evocative of citrus fruit. This is an interesting wine, not quite sure what to make of it – I probably need to drink more of this one to decide what I think.
Nutty “Wild” N.V.
This has a slightly lower alcohol at 10%. I guess its most like a rosé champagne but slightly lighter in body and as close to gold as rosé in colour. I believe this wine is 100% Pinot Noir and it presents dry and pretty red pinot fruit. For me this was not spectacular when compared to the Nutty Brut, but then again it is keenly priced.
Pinot noir 2014
Making still Pinot in the UK is brave, but seems to be becoming more popular. The vines for this wine were planted specifically with still wine in mind, but I imagine production is very weather dependent. This wine had a light but typical Pinot nose, however, it was the palate that was really interesting. Immediately there was a racy and high acidity on the tongue, perhaps added to by a very slight spritz, which then developed into pretty red fruit. This is very light on the body but did not feel unripe. The oak ageing is not quite as integrated as I would like from the late midpalate but this may settle with time. The challenge for this wine will be whether the fruit will last out while the oak integrates.
Conclusions: Nutbourne Vineyards is a lovely spot to visit for an afternoon of informal wine tasting. The Nutty Brut steals the show and is more than deserving of its recent accolades. The remaining range of wines is varied in style, shows innovation and is of consistent high quality.