We were very kindly invited to the Winchester Wine Festival in November 2016 by Berkmann Wine Cellars to assist them them in promoting the always excellent wines of Norton from Argentina. I had a brief 10 minutes to have a quick wander and bumped into old friends like Enjoy Discovering Wine and the Winchester Distillery. However, one of the wines that caught my eye was a new Hampshire wine from Raimes with their smart and elegant black label. It turned out to be their launch even for their first ever vintage, the 2013 Blanc de Noirs.
Available to buy here.
As anyone who follows wine knows, the south of England is fast becoming an area renowned for sparkling wine production. There are established producers, like Nyetimber and Ridgeview, and a whole plethora of new producers. Champagne producers have been looking for vineyard sites in Sussex and Hampshire for a number of years. Champenoise Didier Pierson was one of the first to get involved as a founder of Meonhill Wines with vineyards on Old Winchester Hill near Droxford. More recently Champagne Taittinger have bought land in Kent which is being converted from orchards to vineyards. We are very lucky to have such great sparkling wine producers like Cottonworth Wines and Hambledon Vineyard so close to us in Hampshire. Further afield two of my other favourite English Sparkling wine producers are Ambriel and Upperton, both from Sussex.
Raimes Sparkling Wine is made from grapes grown on the chalky soils of the South Downs near the village of Tichborne close to Arlesford. This is essentially the same lump of chalk which runs from the soils of Champagne, under the channel, to the white cliffs of Dover, through Kent and Sussex and into Hampshire. The vineyards are all located on south facing slopes. This aspect, combined with the soil, weather etc. (the “terroir”) produces wines with excellent minerality, balance, good acidity and complexity. It provides the perfect soil for vineyards for growing grapes for sparkling wines. According to their website, the vines were planted on the day of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s marriage in April 2011.
The Raimes family have been farmers in Hampshire for five generations with land on the historic Tichborne Estate where they have been growing wheat, barley and oilseed rape. They also have a herd of traditional pedigree Hereford cattle. Situated, as they are, on the chalky soils of the South Downs, I guess it was only a matter of time before they started growing grapes for sparkling wine production.
The first release from Raimes was, rather unusually, a Blanc de Noirs, that is a white wine made from red grapes, in this case Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, but they also have Chardonnay and a more traditional Champagne-style three way blend will appear very shortly. Raimes Sparkling wine is very much a family affair in the vineyard, however the wine is made at Hattingley Valley Winery, a stones throw (-ish) away at Lower Yield. The talented winemaking team at Hattingley are the award-winning Emma Rice and Jacob Leadley. Not only do they produce Raimes and Hattingley sparkling wines they also produce Cottonworth Wines too. Emma has won the UK Vineyards Association (UKVA) Winemaker of the year in both 2014 and 2016. Their Hattingley 2011 Rosé won the top accolade at the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships in 2014. This is against some pretty serious competition and it is safe to say the winemaking is in good hands,
As mentioned above, the first release from Raimes is the 2013 Blanc de Noirs. This is a white sparkling wine made in the traditional method from the red grapes Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Red grapes produce white grape juice and can make white wines as long as any pressing and skin contact is kept minimal (the colour comes from various compounds in the skins). The wine spent 24 months on the lees which lends the wine more creaminess and texturality.The blend is 54% Pinot Noir and 46% Pinot Meunier. Dosage is 8g/L. Disgorged in July 2016. Each bottle is hand-numbered, a nice touch.
Tasting Notes – Raimes Sparkling Blanc de Noirs 2013 is a lovely golden colour with a hint of copper. The bead is fine. The nose has aromas of baked fruit, quince, red apples and a hint of toast, brioche note. On the palate it is rich and full and the mousse is quite persistent. There are flavours of red berry fruits and a hint of spice alongside typical sparkling white wine characteristics. The finish is dry and lingering. A stylish sparkling wine with a lovely texture. Great stuff.
Only 900 bottles of this particular vintage were produced, so get in quick!