England


Here’s a first for this series: A sparkling wine from Merrie Olde England.

Digby Fine English was founded by Trevor Clough and Jason Humphries, who operate on the negociant principle of maintaining long-term contracts with trusted growers in the north and south Downs of Kent, Sussex and Hampshire, regions that overlie vast strata of limestone formations. The winery is named in commemoration of Sir Kenelm Digby, a 17th Century English philosopher, theologian, pirate and author who happened, as a sort of sideline, to invent the modern wine bottle. Our product today is the Digby Leander Pink Brut, nv, dubbed in honor of the Leander Club, “the world’s oldest open rowing club” — I don’t actually know what that means — with a portion of the sale of each bottle donated to the Leander Academy, which is, I suppose, where hardy lads learn to row boats. The Digby Leander Pink is a blend of 50 percent pinot noir, 35 percent chardonnay and 15 percent pinot meunier that aged two years in bottle on the lees. The color is very pale coral, and the essential bubbles flow upward in a rush of tiny gold glints; nothing showy here, but spare, delicate and elegant, with aromas of hay and heather, rose petals and strawberries twined with notes of pear and raspberry and a touch of fresh-baked brioche, all quite seamless and shamelessly appealing. Lip-smacking acidity courses o’er the palate, as Tennyson said, forming a vital foundation for limestone and seashell minerality and bracing salinity leading to a sleek, well-hewn finish. 12 percent alcohol. Terrifically charming; we enjoyed this one immensely. Production was 1,666 cases. Excellent. A local purchase, look for prices nationally from $55 to $60.

Vine Street Imports, Mount Laurel, N.J.

Why shouldn’t Merrie Old England produce world-class sparkling wines? In some spots the climate and soil seem perfect gusbornefor the job. One of those places is Kent, the county that starts at the outskirts of Greater London and spreads southeast to encompass that area of the scepter’d isle closest to France, just across the Channel. The grounding here is chalk — think white cliffs of Dover — and the climate maritime. I’ll confess that the Gusborne Brut Reserve 2013 is the first sparkling wine from England that I have tried, and to say that I’m impressed would be understatement. I could imbibe these bubbles all day long. The blend is 55 percent pinot noir, 27 percent pinot meunier and 18 percent chardonnay; the base wine fermented in stainless steel tanks with a small percentage in old oak barriques. This sparkling wine aged a minimum of 36 months on the lees. The color is very pale gold, animated by a frothing shimmer of tiny glinting bubbles; beguiling aromas of fresh apples, lemons and back-notes of macerated red berries are strung on a steel thread; hints of lemon drop and spare grapefruit bitterness bolster a palate characterized by chalk, flint and seashell salinity and bright, incisive acidity. Altogether elegant, approachable and delightful. 12 percent alcohol. Winemaker was Charlie Holland. Drink through 2020 to ’23. Excellent. About $40, a local purchase.

Imported by Broadbent Selections, Richmond, Va.