Last weekend I visited Denbies Wine Estate for a tour and wine tasting, a belated birthday treat with the family.
As you may well know, English wine has a growing reputation, especially for it’s sparkling wines. Denbies, an established winery nestled in the Surrey hills, is mainly known for its Greenfields, Whitedowns and rose’ sparklers. The Greenfields sparkler recently won an award as the best UK sparkling wine.
At the start of the Denbies tour there was a fairly well put together film, which had a surprising amount of information about the history and the soil of the region, and why this was important. Clive the winemakers’ dog also had a starring role.
The tour itself was conducted by a stately English grand dame with a wit dryer than the finest premier cru. During the movie she pointed out that the lively Clive was banned from the Vineyard, but did not elaborate further, “We don’t talk about that, oh no.”
The tour was fairly brief, with a path with a window through to the modern wine making equipment on show. When work is being conducted, I am sure there is even more to see here. One part of this part of the tour which was interesting were the boxes which were branded for different supermarkets. There were identical wines sold under Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Denbies’ labels. Apparently, the winery cannot make enough wine to satisfy supermarket demand at the moment, and is looking to expand to other sites to expand this capability.
The tour then involved a trip to the tasting room. Not quite the prettiest old cellar out there thanks to the concrete, but it did have some carved wooden barrels.
There were three wines to taste, alongside some food to match. Denbies is known rightly for their sparkling wines, but here we were tasting some of the other wines they produce. To start with, Denbies’ Flint Valley, a tasty lightly-oaked white made from Seyval Blanc and Reichensteiner grapes. This paired well with salmon.
Other wines tasted were Surrey Gold and Rose Hill, tasted with smoked chicken and cheese respectively. Although they paired well with the food, they were not really to my taste. I much prefer the sparkling wines Denbies produce, which apparently are served to international guests by the Royal family.
On the wall, there’s a a large diagram of parcels of land and which grapes are grown in each. A wide variety have been planted, certainly showing the amount of experimentation needed to grow and to get the best out of growing in the UK.
Have you tried English sparking wine? How do you rate it compared to Champagne?