Exploring Hambledon Cuvée Rosé from England
Hambledon village in Hampshire is recognised not only as the home of England’s oldest commercial vineyard, but also as the birthplace of cricket. The vineyard now comprises over 200 acres spread across numerous vineyard sites. Each vineyard is planted with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – the three grapes most commonly used in the production of Champagne. Home Vineyard is planted on the steep southeast facing slope immediately beneath Mill Down House at between 50 and 100m above sea level. A larger windmill Down Vineyard spreads across the southeast facing slopes to the west of the house and winery. A third vineyard to the east of the house is unsurprisingly called East vineyard! Two other large sites within the village of Hambledon comprise the remaining vines.
Geology has played a key role in the planning of the Hambledon vineyard. The Newhaven chalk formation on which the vines are grown was formed on the seabed of the Paris basin dome 65 million years ago. The same chalk, with the same Belemnite content, is found in the best Chardonnay area of Côtes des Blancs in Champagne and is thought to be a key factor in the quality of the wines. Hambledon utilises the only state-of-the-art fully gravity fed winery in the UK allowing the wines to be made with the minimal possible intervention. There is no need to pump the musts or wines under pressure, but instead they can move gently by gravity from one tank or process to the next.
Notes on Hambledon Rosé
The grapes are pruned, picked and loaded into the press by hand to minimise damage. The Coquard PAI presses use a gentle horizontal pressing motion to extract the best quality juice from the grapes without extraction the bitter compounds from the skins. The juice is separated into two parts: the free run and the initial pressing (the Cuvée) and the end pressing (the Taille). It is chilled to 5’ and left in tanks for up to 24 hours to allow the grape solids to settle at the bottom of the tank, from where they can be removed. Yeast is added to turn the grape juice into dry, still wine.
After this alcoholic fermentation has finished the malolactic fermentation converts the malic acid in the wine into lactic acid. The wines are left in the tanks on the lees (the dead yeast) for a minimum of six months to gain extra flavour and aromatic complexity. The wines in each tank are tasted separately and the winemaking team decide which will be blended together for each cuvée. Yeast and sugar are added during bottling to kick start a second fermentation of the sparkling wine and each bottle is sealed with a crown top. The wine has a minimum of 45 months on the lees before riddling, disgorging, labelling and sent to market.
The Hambledon Classic Cuvée Rosé, made from 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir from the 2015 harvest, is a beautiful, vivid wild-strawberry pink with a hue of red onion skin on the rim. On the nose, magnolia blossom is followed stridently by perfumed wild-strawberry compote with hints of buttered white sourdough toast. The palate is rich and mouth filling flavours of strawberry balanced by zingy tart cranberry and pithy Almalfi lemon notes. The texture is creamy with a clean, crisp, yeasty finish. This sparkling wine is great drunk as an aperitif but also can accompany shellfish, lean fish and appetizers and snacks well.