Cottonworth Wines is an English Sparkling Wine (Hampshire Sparkling Wine to be precise) producer located in the Test Valley in Hampshire. Cottonworth itself is a small village situated between the towns of Andover and Stockbridge and the vineyards are on the outskirts of the village. Cottonworth is owned by the Liddell family who have been farming the land for five generations first as a mixed farm, more recently as a crayfish farm and now as an arable farm and vineyards.
Hugh Liddell is the winemaker at Cottonworth Wines who spent two years learning about all apsects of wine-making whilst working and studying wine in Burgundy. As an aside, when the family sold some 93 acres of land (to another English sparkling wine producer) they were able to invest in vineyards in Chassagne Montrachet and St Aubin 1er Cru . These are also sold under the Cottonworth label. Hugh started off in the wine trade in retail and as a broker and was instrumental in planting the first vines on the family farm. He has also worked vintages in New Zealand and South Africa as well as studying Viticulture and Oenology at Plumpton College.
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The first vineyards at Cottonworth were planted in 2005 and comprised of two acres of German and French grape varieties. Of course, the English wine landscape has changed quite rapidly since 2005 and most quality wine producers have realised the potential of English Sparkling Wine. The onus has now moved to planting the main sparkling wine grape varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier rather than Germanic varieties. In 2012 Cottonworth planted a further 10 acres of vineyards with these three grape varieties. Two thirds of this was Pinot Noir which adds fruit and body to the final cuvee, as well as colour to the Sparkling Rosé. The vines are planted on half way up a south facing slope (at around 40 to 70 metres above sea level) which means they avoid the cold air that accumulates at the bottom. The vines at Meonhill Wines on Old Winchester Hill near Droxford are planted in a similar manner which was described to me as “air-drainage”, which means the cold air rolls down the slopes and sits below the level of the vineyard thus helping to prevent frost in the vineyards.
The vineyards at Cottonworth are planted on soils 40cm deep over pure chalk and are of poor quality, which means the vines work hard to send their roots far down in the chalk. This allows for a certain expression of purity and minerality in the final wine.The soils are also well-draining but retain enough water to keep the vines healthy. There are three different types of soil in the vineyards – very chalky, chalky and not chalky. These are best suited to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier respectively.
As wine production at Cottonworth increased, they soon outgrew their own, tiny wine-making facilities (in the old dairy) and therefore joined forces with another Hampshire Sparkling Wine producer, Hattingley Valley Wines. Hattingley Valley Wines is located at Lower Wield near Arlesford, some 20 miles away, and have a modern, state-of-the-art winery and, more importantly, excess capacity. Cottonworth Wines are now made at at Hattingley Valley winery. The wines are made using the Methode Traditionelle i.e. the wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle to introduce the fizz in exactly the same way as Champagne, and most quality sparkling wine, is produced. Grapes are gently basket-pressed and the wine is fermented in a combination of temperature controlled stainless steel and oak barriques. After fermentation the wine is blended and bottle for the second fermentation in the bottle. It is at this stage that the red Pinot Noir component is added for the Sparkling Rosé. The wine is aged for several years on the lees prior to disgorgement.
Cottonworth makes two sparkling wines, a Classic Cuvée and a Rosé. I had always tried their wines at the annual Vineyards of Hampshire Wine Tasting and they were always very impressive. It is great to be able to stock these fantastic wines and I was very pleased to see that they have a very smart new presentation for 2016 too.
Cottonworth Classic Cuvée is a classic sparkling wine blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. It has a pale golden colour and is a floral, aromatic wine with hints of brioche, bready notes and some citrus / lemon notes on the the nose. It has a good mousse and is fresh and clean on the palate with good, chalky minerality. It has a clean, dry and persistent finish. Dosage 7g/L.
Cottonworth Sparkling Rosé is also a blend of Pinot noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier but with a higher proportion of Pinot Noir than the Classic Cuvée. It is a very pale pink colour and a very fine bead. The nose has aromas of red summer fruits (strawberry, cherry) and hint of apple. There are more red fruit flavours on the palate with good minerality and acidity. An excellent clean and fresh Rosé with a refreshing finish. Dosage 8g/L.