ALISTAIR GIBSON: Hants off to Hants fizz: they’re corkers!

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For English Wine producers and those from Hampshire in particular it has been an amazing 12 months. It seems to have gone from cottage industry to international recognition in a few short sips.

There are currently 503 commercial vineyards in the UK and 133 wineries on 2,000 hectares of land. Where did they all come from? Bear in mind there are many more that haven’t yet released a bottle.

Exton Park Brut Reserve NV.

Exton Park Brut Reserve NV.

The 2014 harvest produced a record-breaking 6.3m bottles, a 42 per cent increase on the previous year and although 2015 was a cooler growing season, an encouraging total in excess of five million bottles was still produced. And 2016 could be one of the best vintages ever.

According to the English Wine Producers’ Association hectarage planted in the UK has doubled in the past eight years and will grow a further 50 per cent by 2020, producing about 10m bottles.

These are exciting times for producers and consumers and Hampshire vineyards are at the forefront.

I often pinch myself when I think that not far from here are not just some of the best wine producers in the country but they produce some of the finest sparklers in the world. What better time to focus on this than during British Food Fortnight, a nationally-organised event celebrating our food and drink?

Meonhill Reserve Brut NV.

Meonhill Reserve Brut NV.

The Vineyards of Hampshire is a group of seven producers who have come together to promote their wines and unique vineyard locations (vineyardsofhampshire.co.uk).

Earlier this year, as reported in these pages, The Judgment of Hampshire was organised as a blind tasting pitting some of these wines against top Champagnes. The result was impressive with the top two spots taken by Hampshire fizz!

The Vineyards of Hampshire will appear at the Emsworth British Food Fortnight on October 1 at the A Thought for Food Market (10am-4pm). This is a great opportunity to meet the producers and taste some of the wines causing such a stir.

The Vineyards of Hampshire Wine Pavilion will include wines from Jenkyn Place; Hambledon Vineyard; Meonhill; Danebury Vineyards, and Exton Park.

Here are two wines to whet the appetite: Meonhill Reserve Brut NV, Hampshire (available from Hambledon Vineyard and local wine merchants – £25.95 rrp.) is a 50/50 blend of chardonnay and pinot noir made by Champagne maker Didier Pierson. It’s rich with a nose showing honey, orchard fruits and nuts, followed by a well-balanced palate with good acidity and a long finish.

Exton Park Brut Reserve NV, Hampshire (available from the vineyard and local wine merchants, £27.95 rrp.) is the new kid on the block in the world of Hampshire sparkling wine. In the past 10 years, it has been gradually planted with pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay and now there are vines of different ages and different characteristics from which the French-born winemaker, Corinne Seely can make her blends.

This Brut Reserve NV is made from 60 per cent pinot noir and 40 per cent chardonnay wines from several years. This is elegant, focused sparkling wine with lemon peel, a touch of brioche and a long racy finish.

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