In late Summer when the days were still warm and sunny enough to enjoy a picnic, we went on a glorious trip down the Shropshire Union Canal on a day boat. We set out from Blackwater Meadow Marina near Ellesmere on a boat very appropriately named Lazy Days, and meandered for hours through the most idyllic countryside. Such a treat.
I brought a bottle of the Hambledon Vineyard’s Première Cuvée: made in Hampshire, although there are vineyards in England as far north as Shropshire and even Scotland. But it is the chalky slopes of Hampshire, Sussex and Kent that are particularly suited to the grapes that are used to produce sparkling wines, and the Hambledon Première Cuvée was no exception.
We cracked it as an aperitif before lunch. I really liked the slightly golden colour of it, and though the mousse was unremarkable that was probably because we were drinking from the pub style wine glasses that were provided on the day boat. No matter…the fizz on the tongue was nice and tickly and it had all the acidity you want in an aperitif – mouthwatering: we’re ready for the picnic!
I found it just medium dry but the acidity balanced any sweetness, and there was a perfect hint of the brioche. But then the flavours: they were delicious and really quite complex. I’m still not sure of one of them…apples definitely, but then something else, almost tropical, perhaps passion fruit or orange blossom. And that flavour was there to the end in quite a long finish.
Much later I met the owner of Hambledon Vineyard when I was thrilled to hear that the Première Cuvée had recently beaten some very well-known French champagnes at a blind tasting (read about it here: The Telegraph Wine Review). He also agreed that orange flavours were quite notable in the wine, which pleased me no end…nothing beats vindication by the viticulturist.
Except perhaps an English Summer day on a canal boat…