Monday, 25 June 2012

In the pink - Herbert Hall at the Summer Solstice

tucking the leaves of the vine at Herbert Hall June2012

Summer so far in Southen England has seen remorseless rainstorms - the darker face of Climate Change. Champagne, too, has been soggy & damp, then hot & sticky, mildew afflicting the vines in mid-flowering. If that was not enough, hail has devastated  the Barsuraubois sector of  the Aube - Michel Drappier reporting the loss of 75 percent of his Pinot crop in a 15 minute devastation. So, it is fitting that last monday the 19th the weather was sunny & kind for Nick Hall, a great talent and charmer, who deserves some luck as the maker of, for me, the best, silkiest sparkling wine in Southern England. A troop of his best customers that included Paxton & Whitfield and the Caprice restaurant group caught the 9 40 along the old Hop route to Marden in the heart of the North Weald. I felt as if I was coming home, my mother's family were Kentish apple farmers.

Nick Hall explains his winemaking
We walked from the station the half mile to Nick's top vineyard, on a fine south- facing slope that sits on a bed of gravel that lends focus and elegance to his wines. The view, too, is rather special, open elegant country with mature oaks on rolling hillocks - one might have been in Burgundy in the pretty byways of Bouzeron, Rully and Mercurey. The lower vineyard has more clay and gives a substantial boost to the cuvees. Nobody can pretend that 2010 was an easy vintage in England - the acidity levels were scarily high - and as Nick's Plumpton guru, the good Peter Morgan, honestly admitted, a sizeable dosage of 13 g/l was needed to make the wine palatable: natural methods can only do so much when nature is cruel.

Against the odds, Nick has made a fine  champagne in 2010 with more chardonnay in the mix to give long-life and structure. But his rose is the ace, just pressed a little longer to give a subtle tint of colour and aromatic little red fruits,the work of a man with real feeling for his passion. I had a great talk, too, with Nick's son, Alexander, now at Charterhouse, a bright hope and maybe an assured successor one day.

Damn the weather, press on!

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