Continuing my tour of British vineyards I made my way to Sharpham Vineyards on the river Dart for a delightful summer afternoon. Sharpham Estate is known in equal measure in the local area for their efforts in wine and cheese. A few years ago I tried the Summer Red after friends visited the vineyard so it was great to get back and sample more widely across the range. Sharpham Estate offers wine tasting, cheese tasting and walking trails by the river and through the vineyards. If you are here in time for lunch then there is also a small cafe serving locally sourced produce and seafood.
Several of the whites are based on the unusual variety of Madelaine Angevine which makes interesting whites here in the UK. At nearby site Beenleigh, the Sharpham team also make a Cabernet/Merlot blend under polytunnels, but this was not available for tasting. I came away with a hearty cheeseboard and a bottle of the Barrel Fermented White which proved a delicious partner for a summer BBQ.
Price: £6 for a flight of 4 wines, £2.50 for a flight of 3 cheeses. Prices for wines listed below are based on the website but I believe they are slightly cheaper if you purchase them in the vineyard shop.
Impression: A delightful spot on the edge of the river Dart. Well worth a visit if you are in the South Hams area of Devon and have even a passing interest in wine and cheese.
Wines Tasted: Sharpham Sparkling 2013, Sharpham Estate Selection Dry 2014, Sharpham Dart Valley Reserve 2014, Sharpham Valley Barrel Fermented 2013, Sharpham Red 2014, Sharpham Pinot Noir and Précoce 2013.
Sharpham Sparkling 2013
Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier & Chardonnay, £25.50 per bottle
Dry lemony, tasty and fresh. A bit of Pinot fruit and toasty notes coming through on the mid-palate. High acidity keeps this focused and refreshing. Not oaked but good structure, presumably due to 9 months ageing on the lees after secondary fementation. A very enjoyable wine, great for the summer.
Not quite up with the Nutbourne tasted recently but a strong effort. It was a shame they did not have the sparkling reserve available to taste; this has longer lees aging and a different cépage, and would probably prove a fairer comparison.
Sharpham Estate Selection Dry 2014
100% Madeleine Angevine, £13.50 per bottle
Clear pale lemon. Aromatic floral nose (++) which impresses. Slightly too light on the palate and very primary. Slightly green, perhaps a note of gooseberry but too light for apple. High acidity and perhaps slightly unripe. Needs a bit more power but rather pretty.
Sharpham Dart Valley Reserve 2014
Madeleine Angevine, Chardonnay & Bacchus, £12.50 per bottle
Moving on from the first wine we find something a bit richer and fuller bodied. Again we find an aromatic nose, still floral but with additional complexity from the Bacchus. This has a touch of oak that is well integrated and fills the wine out to a moderate length finish. Balance is good with neither too little or too much acidity. This wine was a great partner to the Sharpham Cheese. Overall a decent wine for day to day drinking but I would still prefer a little bit more excitement.
Sharpham Barrel Fermented 2013
100% Madeleine Angevine, £16.95 per bottle
As evident from the name this is barrel fermented in oak considerably increasing the richness of the nose. The wine presents a buttery palate with medium (+) body. There is high acidity leading to a medium finish with minerality. Citrus fruit and good balance. An enjoyable wine in a more serious style than the other whites – lots of potential.
This impressed me more than the other whites and convinced me to pick up a bottle. Whilst I scored the sparkling higher this stands out as an excellent example of British wine making. We got through the rest of the bottle over a BBQ and it was enjoyed by all. After this longer period with wine in the glass I felt it tasted slightly too green but not sufficiently to detract from the experience.
Sharpham Red 2014
100% Pinot Noir Précoce, £15.95 per bottle
Pinot Noir Précoce is effectively just an early ripening Pinot Noir. This has a lovely bright ruby colour, and presents aromatic pinot fruit, raspberry and cherry. This is very primary, with a bright and pretty presentation. There is low tannin, a light body and moderate acidity.
Sharpham Pinot Noir & Précoce 2013
50% Pinot Noir & 50% Pinot Noir Précoce, £23.95 per bottle
This is a different beast from the Sharpham Red. This is darker in colour with greater intensity. The nose is far richer with bramble and hedgerow rather than primary fruit. We felt there was some volatile acidity on the nose. The palate is savory with a suggestion of cured meats. There was a slightly unusual note that reminded me of urea but I did not feel this was a fault in the wine. This was well balanced but not quite sure it was to my palate. I would want this with something pungent, perhaps game or indeed Sharpham cheese.
All in this is a pretty decent effort for an English Pinot.
These were so delicious I could not resist writing a few lines.
Rustic: Jersey cow’s milk cheese. Tasty, traditional, a bit of tartness. This cheese comes in fabulous rounds with an edible skin.
Savour with caraway: Mixed goat and cow cheese. Similar to a hard goats cheese and remaining creamy. This version had the unusual addition of Caraway seeds which worked surprisingly well.
Brie: Soft Jersey cow’s milk cheese. Possibly the best of the lot. As a non-brie fan this was delicious – it’s not too pungent, very buttery and has a great texture. For me this knocks the socks of French Brie.
Santa Lucia: Fresh curd cheese with mixed herbs and garlic. Tasty, smooth, enjoyable and quick to be polished off on the cheeseboard.
Conclusions: Sharpham Estates is a lovely spot to visit. They have an exciting collection of English wines and the cheese is sublime. Next time I visit I will ensure I stop for lunch. I would recommend both Pinots and the barrel fermented white as my top picks.