A warm April lunch time afforded me the opportunity to venture out into the Dorset Countryside and visit the Langham Wine Estate, producers of fine English sparkling wines.
Langham Wine Estate History
In 2009 Justin Langham, Director of Langham Wine Estate expanded his fathers’ small vineyard into a wonderful world class wine estate it is today. It now produces some fantastic award winning English Sparkling wines. Planted in 30 acres of the beautiful Langham Estate the vineyard boasts some 38,000 vines with a mix of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. With a south facing aspect and chalk based soils the vineyards micro-climate gives the perfect ‘terroir’ for these classic Champagne grape varieties. All the vines are on American root stock which will ensure they are resistant to the dreaded phylloxera aphid. This was the cause of the Great French Wine Blight, which was a severe blight of the mid-19th century. It destroyed many of the vineyards in France and laid waste to the wine industry!
Paul, the Tasting Room Manager, very kindly took some time out of his busy schedule to show me around the vineyard, the winery and even a cheeky trip into the tasting room itself.
April sees the start of the growing season and the first burst of leaves starting to show on the vines – this can give an indication of the number of bunches of grapes one can expect from each vine in the months to come – albeit very dependent on the weather and growing conditions. (Fingers crossed for 2017)
The grapes are normally ripe and ready to harvest in October, when all of the bunches are carefully picked by hand and transferred straight to the onsite winery. This short transfer (only a few metres) from vineyard to winery means that all the care and nurturing of the grapes through the year is not lost and processing can take place within a few hours of the grapes being picked.
The winery at Langham Wine Estate is housed in a wonderful old barn, which is full of character but also containing some very modern wine-making equipment. The computer controlled press holds in the region of two tonnes of grapes and the finest wine comes from the first press. At this point the first juice to come off is discarded to remove bugs and other bits that have arrived along with the pick process.
Once pressed the juice is now ready for primary fermentation and is put into either the temperature-controlled stainless steel fermentation bins, or used French Barriques (small oak barrels). After fermentation the blending takes place by winemaker Daniel Ham, who believes that the best wine is produced with the least manipulation. The traditional (champagne method) second in bottle fermentation, is used to produce the sparkle in the wines. It is bottled and is left on the yeast lees for at least 18 months before being disgorged (removal of the sediment) and then aged further under cork. Only when they are 100% happy will the wine be released for sale.
The wine tasting room is in the old dairy and is very warm and welcoming. The aromas and flavours of all three wines I tasted were just incredible. Starting with the Classic Cuvée, a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes was a delight. It has a lovely fresh nose of peach, greengage and buttered toast. A brilliant burst of flavours of crunchy green apples and grapefruit. Just the ticket for any occasion either served with or without food.
Next I tried the Rosé which is a beautiful blend of 45% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir and 15% Pinot Meunier grapes. The pale strawberry pink colour compliments the taste of super summer fruits: raspberries, strawberries and cherries, it was just sublime. Ideal for any occasion and the perfect accompaniment to fresh strawberries and cream.
The final wine I tasted was the delightful and multi award winning Blanc de Blanc. In 2016 this amazing wine won gold medals at both the International Wine and Spirits Competition 2016 and the International Wine Challenge 2016. Having been aged on lees for at least 3 years this wine was a real treat to taste, with delicate brioche and toasted nut aromas. The golden colour and fine bubbles compliment the fresh citrus acidity and smooth honeyed richness. This wine would be perfect as an aperitif or served with some fantastic fresh Dorset seafood.
There is nothing better than enjoying a fresh glass of award winning English Sparkling wine produced from right here in Dorset. Then to make things even better prices start at only £24 per bottle……..