England is giving Beaujolais a run for its money with two producers releasing English red wine today, fresh from the 2020 vintage.
Sixteen Ridges based in Herefordshire and Balfour Hush Heath in Kent have both produced a light fruity red from this year’s harvest, releasing it on what is traditionally the day Beaujolais Nouveau appears on Britain’s shelves.
Whilst New Releases have been produced in England before, this is the first time that red wines have been produced for early release. The growing conditions in 2020 brought both a bountiful and ripe harvest and some of the earliest picking dates on record.
The winemakers behind the wines are both second generation winemakers in Britain.
Simon Day, the winemaker and Production Director for the Sixteen Ridges range, got the idea of an ‘English Nouveau’ from a trade enquiry in 2019 which led to a small experimental batch being made for trade only sale. The wine is produced from Pinot Noir Precoce, a variety successfully used by Sixteen Ridges in single varietal reds. The variety ripens earlier than standard Pinot Noir, and this year was harvested earlier than ever before.
Their Nouveau is made using similar methods as used in the Beaujolais region; in order to highlight the freshness and fruitiness of the style, and reduce tannins, small tanks are used into which whole bunches of grapes are placed into CO2 and undergo an intracellular fermentation for a short period of time – a process called carbonic maceration. The wine then continues to ferment in a more conventional manner with yeast. The grapes are then pressed to yield a fruity easy drinking light red wine.
The Sixteen Ridges “English Nouveau 2020” will be available from selected Waitrose stores across the UK, and on the www.waitrosecellar.com from the today.
Balfour Nouveau 2020 was released 24 hours before, and is produced by Balfour’s Head Winemaker Fergus Elias. He sourced the grapes from one particular parcel of Burgundy clone Pinot Noir, and harvested on 23rd September – less than two months ago. Fergus recalls “the fruit from this parcel was so early, with a lovely strawberry jam character, that we thought we would never have a better opportunity to make a Nouveau style red wine. This fruit was the forerunner of a harvest of exceptional quality”
The result was just 1000 bottles of, in Fergus’ words, ‘an extraordinarily fresh and delicious Pinot Noir brimming with rich red autumnal fruits combined with delicate hints of spice and coffee’, and matured briefly in brand new French and American barrels for its distinctives soft oak character.
A quirky illustration of our winemaking philosophy Balfour Nouveau is available from the Hush Heath Estate website for £20 a bottle (postage and packing free). There are also a few Jeroboams of the to be snapped up for around £100 each – perfect for a socially -distanced Rule of Six celebration……or beside a log fire on a cold, dark winter evening.