Chapel Down

The Chapel Down vineyard is near Tenterden in Kent. It was started in 1995 and 25 years later it is England’s leading winemaker. English wine has been in the ascendancy for several years, gaining public support, critical acclaim and international accolades. My first experience of English wine was Denbies near Dorking – a beautiful spot, but the wine wasn’t great. It’s better now as they are, like Chapel Down, able to grow a more appealing range of grapes. This is down to global warming; the ability to grow Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier in the relatively cool climate of Southern England on the same terroir as Burgundy has made the area attractive to winegrowers.

I’ve tasted and reviewed the Chapel Down range a few times and have toured their vineyard three times now. I was given a ‘Winter Wine Experience’ which included a tutored tasting and a three course lunch in their ‘Swan Wine Kitchen’.

The first wine up was their Classic Non-Vintage Brut, which I reviewed here. The only change to this review would be that the price is now £27 per bottle. Not cheap. At this price you could buy premium Champagne – is Chapel Down fizz really comparable? Yes, it is.

Next up was their Vintage Sparkling Wine ‘Three Graces 2015’. Made from the three champagne grapes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier in the Traditional Method.

Tasting notes: This bottle would have to be for a special occasion to justify the £35 price tag. I think that this was a very good sparkling wine; this vintage is better than the one that I tried a few years ago. This was rich on the nose with pronounced aromas of baked apple and pastry. It had some length on the finish and the palate was apple pie! The mousse was gentle and the bubbles were very fine.

Wine Colour – White
Price – £35
Where do I get it from? – Chapel Down – otherwise not widely available.
Current Vintage – 2015
Type of Closure – Cork
Bottle size – 750ml
Grape – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier
Country – England (Kent)
Verdict – Very Good

Food Pairings: Went very well canapes, would also go with summer lunch foods.

I’ve tried Chapel Down Bacchus (and others from as far North as Norfolk) before and it is a variety well suited to the English climate.

Tasting notes: This bottle came from the hot 2018 vintage. It’s appearance is pale lemon colour, and the nose is aromatic, with white flower and stone fruit notes. On the palate it is balanced, fresh, light and dry with a fairly short finish. not especially intense or complex – fans of Sauvignon Blanc would like this wine.

Wine Colour – White
Price – £14
Where do I get it from? – Waitrose.
Current Vintage – 2018
Type of Closure – Screw Top
Bottle size – 750ml
Grape – Bacchus,
Country – England (Kent)
Verdict – Good
Food Pairings: Would go well with trout

We compared this with Chapel Down Kit’s Coty Bacchus 2017

Tasting Notes: Pale lemon colour. Primary aromas of stone fruits and white flowers. secondary notes of oak; on the palate I detected notes of dill, which would be associated with American oak but the oak used was French.. Dry, crisp, fresh with lively acidity. Like the other Bacchus this may not be to everyone’s palatebut if you like somewhat floral aromatic wines, this is for you. At £25 per bottle I find this rather expensive

Wine Colour – White
Price – £25
Where do I get it from? – Chapel Down – not widely available
Current Vintage – 2017
Type of Closure – Screw Cap
Bottle size – 750ml
Grape – Bacchus
Country – England (Kent)

Verdict – Good
Food Pairings: Would go well with fish dishes or salads.

Flint Dry 2018 was the penultimate wine in our tasting, and I reviewed it here. The only difference to this review would be the price; it’s now £13 a bottle. This is more of a crowd-pleaser than Chapel Down’s Bacchus offerings.

Chapel Down Nectar Late Harvest 2017

Tasting notes: This bottle came from the 2017 vintage. It’s appearance is pale lemon colour, and the nose is gently tropical with pineapple, lychee and honeysuckle notes. On the palate it is balanced, very light (only 9% abv) and sweet with a fairly short finish. Not especially intense or complex.

Wine Colour – White
Price – £14
Where do I get it from? – Chapel Down – not widely available.
Current Vintage – 2017
Type of Closure – cork
Bottle size – 375ml
Grape – Schonberger
Country – England (Kent)
Verdict – Good
Food Pairings: Would go well with pavlova.

Image result for chapel down english rose 2018
Chapel Down English Rose 2018

Chapel Down English Rose 2018

Tasting notes: This bottle came from the hot 2018 vintage. It’s appearance is pale pink colour, and the nose is confected – strawberries and cream. On the palate it is light (only 12% abv), crisp and refreshing with a fairly short finish.

Wine Colour – Rose
Price – £13
Where do I get it from? – Justerini & Brooks.
Current Vintage – 2018
Type of Closure – Screw Cap
Bottle size – 750ml
Grape – Pinot Noir, Rondo, Regent, Pinot Meunier
Country – England (Kent)
Verdict – Good
Food Pairings: Best as an aperitif.

Chapel Down Tutored Tasting the ‘Winter Wine Experience’ – our host was knowledgeable and engaging. The tasting lasted an hour and was held in a private room at the back of the restaurant. It was at communal seating and was fun!

The Swan Restaurant or ‘Wine Kitchen’ has lovely views of the vineyard and the surrounding countryside. The Bar area has a wood burner in the Winter months to sit around and funky tables (seemed to be made from torpedoes?) and seating (big champagne corks, leather sofas). The room we ate in was called the ‘Chef’s Table’ – this would normally imply that you were seated in an area which granted you an interesting view of the kitchen at work, preparing your meal. Here however there was a closed door with opaque glass – so only the ‘table’ part was accurate. Our meal began with two canapes – a black squid ink crisp with aioli on was garlicy and a beetroot meringue with goats cheese was sweet and astringently ‘goaty’ – a delicious combination. The menu was set – with little choice unless you were either a veggie or a pescatarian (the fish eater at our table got a large fillet of trout – which looked lovely). The set starter for all was a creamy onion soup made with Chapel Down’s Curious Cider, served with a small slice of onion bread. This was hearty fare; I enjoyed this on a cold, windy day. The meal included either a glass of their Bacchus 2018 or a glass of Sangiovese (from Italy, not Kent – but produced in conjunction with Chapel Down’s winemaker at an Italian vineyard). The Bacchus went well with the soup – not so well with the set main course, which was pork belly. This was perfectly cooked and came with creamed potatoes and a fashionable kimchi/kohlrabi/black garlic mixture which was pickled/fermented and really oddly tasty. The sangiovese went well with this. The set pudding (for all 18 people in the tasting) was an odd mixture of a piped coffee mousse with a honeycomb disc. It managed to be precisely not sweet – it tasted vaguely of coffee and bicarbonate of soda, with a drizzle of sticky toffee sauce. Good coffee came with (two) petit fours – what looked like dark Turkish delight was a small, very sweet berry/jelly confection and a small, soft sticky piece of fudge. After the pudding course the sugar rush was needed.

Verdict – overall a good, fun wine-tasting event, at a lovely vineyard. I can recommend it.

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