Tasting T2.2 England Light Whites

This tasting was one we were very keen to try early in the list as to be frank, we know very little about English wine other than the fact that it is rising in quality every year. It’s not just that climate change is having a benefit on the growing season and therefore the ability to ripen a wider range of grapes, it is also the wine knowledge that has been gained by young winemakers travelling the world, receiving education and skills and returning to home. Further to that there are also benefits of the vines ageing in vineyard sites and that those sites are becoming better understood with time.

Before we get into this wine tasting I should explain our tasting numbers at the top of each article. When I decided to carry out the 60 tastings, I split them into three groups. The first group or T1 is France, then T2 is Old world countries and T3, New world.

There are 20 tastings in each group, so for example T3.5 is the fifth tasting group of the New World tastings.

So to our English Light white tasting, this is a section of wines that are not full-on Chardonnay as those wines will be covered in another tasting. Some of these wines may have some Chardonnay in, but they are either blends or alternative single grape varieties.

English Wine is becoming more popular every year and is now recognised as a premium wine producing region. Currently there are over 500 vineyards/wineries and over 3 million bottles produced a year, so it really is about time I improved my knowledge of some of these wines.

As mentioned previously, this is just a snapshot tasting, one of four we will do on UK/English wine. The others will cover Sparkling wine (T2.1), Chardonnay (T2.3) and Pinot Noir (T2.4).

Today we will be tasting 6 wines from 4 different wineries. Oh, and by the way ‘English Wine Week 2022’ is from the 18th to 26th June, so it’s an apt time to explore some of the wines.

This tasting really excited me (David), not so Harry, so let’s hope it delivers… This tasting was done by us two, Kim and Luke.

The wineries are,

Chapel Down

Located in Tenterden, Kent, England’s leading wine producer, certainly by volume, started its wine life producing sparkling wines from two of the traditional Champagne grapes, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It also uses the same ‘traditional’ method of producing sparkling wine where the bubbles occur naturally within the bottle. We will taste some of those at another time, but today we kick off our tasting with an entry level wine simply known as ‘Flint’

Lyme Bay

Now over 25 years old, Lyme Bay Winery is located in the Axe valley, Devon. Grapes are sourced from select growers and vineyards across the country. They also produce mead, gin, rum, cider and fruit wines and liqueurs to name but a few.  We have chosen two wines from Lyme Bay.

Fitz (Sov’ran)

An interestingly original and innovative wine company, setting out to make a sparkling wine using the Charmat method (where bubbles are trapped in steel tanks by carbonation) as used in prosecco. They also make still wines from Ortega and Pinot Noir.


Jon Worontschak (try spelling that after a few glasses) born and trained in Australia came to England in the mid-80’s after mastering sparkling wines and a bit of wine travel he set up Litmus to make a world class premium still wine. The first Litmus 20 was the 2010 vintage, we have the 2016 and 2014 to try. It is named after Calcium (20th element in the periodic table) as that is an integral component of the soil and can create complex, long lasting wines.

So without further ado...

1st up is..

Chapel Down Flint 2019

A dry wine made from, Chardonnay, Bacchus, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir although often with some Huxelrebe, Reichensteiner, muller-Thurgau and Schlonberger also. It is described as a great introduction to English Still wine.

Nose: Pale Straw colour on viewing. Citrus was the key aroma which immediately surrounded the senses. Hints of stone fruits, grass and pear were present but lemons and limes were the driving force.

Palate: Similar to the above in all but the grass. It started off with a lovely citrusy burst as the stone fruits and pears became a lot more prudent. Certainly a light-bodied wine with high acidity and a long finish. Unfortunately however the finish was overpowered by the acidity in the wine and was quite tart. This was the first wine we tasted, which was still quite nice in parts so I tried really hard not to judge it too much and Dad kept saying it’ll get better but at the moment I still wasn’t quite convinced. £15 a bottle.

Lyme Bay Shoreline 2020

A balanced and crisp wine made from Bacchus, Reichensteiner, Seyval Blanc, Pinot Noir and Solaris.

Nose: Pale Straw colour on viewing. This was a very odd smell… Along the lines of wheat or oats, not farmyard or anything like that but just very different. It was extremely difficult to decipher, it was extremely floral which did help to identify certain light fruit although admittedly it was lacking in that as well. Slight hints of pineapple were among the one fruit we could all agree on, Kim and Luke said they got Petrol as well… Dad and I were less convinced.

Palate: Very similar to the above aromas that I have tried (not very well admittedly) to describe. I have literally written down ‘taste like Weetabix’. Now that may be slightly untrue but it just shows how much I was getting oats / wheat on the palate as well as the nose. Kim said it reminded her of Rusks. It certainly had a medium body and medium acidity, which was helpful for the mouthfeel of the wine as it meant we could at least taste everything that it had to offer. A medium finish as well which again aided the tasting, however, much like the first wine above, it ended with a lot of tartness and acidity. Extremely overpowering and not the best in all honesty. I was again waiting to be convinced and Dad was finding it hard as well. £15 a bottle.

Lyme Bay Sandbar 2018

Fresh and zesty apparently from 100% Bacchus and suitable for Vegan’s.

Nose: Pale Straw colour on viewing. Limes, limes and some more limes. Never have I ever smelt a wine that is so limey. It was very impressive in that regard. Hints of cut grass again coming through with a slight aroma of stone fruits. Mainly just a big bowl of limes… safe to say I was nervous for the taste!

Palate: It really did not disappoint, it wasn’t too overpowering and actually tasted really lovely. After the initial melange of limes, grapefruit came to the forefront and did end with lip smacking tartness. It was not however similar to the previous two, this tartness had a bit of finesse and was not wildly overpowering which was a big plus in my book. Medium bodied, high acidity and a medium length finish. This was the first one that I was actually relatively pleased with. Not a great wine, but inoffensive and easy to drink. £15 a bottle.

Sov’ran Ortega 2018

Produced in very small volume from the extraordinary 2018 harvest. We were advised to decant this to unlock its full potential… sounds good!

Nose: Pale Straw colour on viewing. This had a fantastic nose, marmalade and honeysuckle were very present. Aromas of clementines and apricot jam as one delved in for more on the nose. This was getting exciting.

Palate: So different to the nose, but it was lovely. Citrus at the beginning with that hint of grapefruit that we keep seeing from these English wines. Caramel and butter towards the end to give it a beautiful tertiary finish. Medium bodied, high acidity but a very quick finish. I was very happy with this wine. Proof that the English wineries can indeed make something that is very promising. £15 a bottle.

Litmus Elements 20 2016

The 2016 Element 20 is 67% Chardonnay and 33% Bacchus. Fermented separately in older French, oak barriques the Chardonnay underwent malolactic fermentation and both parcels remained on full lees for 11 months with minimal intervention before bottling. Sounds good to me.

Nose: Citrus, Vanilla, Butterscotch, honeysuckle and oranges. This was very different and very much welcomed. Luke (who grew up in Asia) said that at first it reminded him of Durian fruit… honestly gibberish to me but it did smell fantastic.

Palate: Given its age… the freshness of this wine was very impressive. Citrus, grapefruit, vanilla and orange all come together to create a very unique and interesting wine. I was very impressed and thoroughly enjoyed dissecting this. Medium-full bodied, low acidity and a medium finish led to a very good score. £20 a bottle.

Litmus Elements 20 2014

The 2014 is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc grapes. Each component is fermented separately in old French oak barrels and left to mature for eleven months before being blended and bottled.

Nose: As you saw above the grape varieties used were very different and you could instantly tell. Vanilla was still ever-present due to the oak ageing. However, citrus fruit, stone fruits and beautiful floral aromas all intertwined here to create a summer garden bouquet. Very interesting.

Palate: Again freshness was so impressive given this wine is 8 years old. A cracking bottle of citrus, orange and vanilla. Medium body, moderate acidity and a low-medium finish made this wine very good. I would say it is at its time, it will not get any better but it was nice to drink. £20 a bottle.


On to the scores…

Chapel Down Flint 2019: 84 points

Lyme Bay Shoreline 2020: 77 points

Lyme Bay Sandbar 2018: 80 points

Sov’ran Ortega 2018: 87 points

Litmus Elements 20 2016: 84 points

Litmus Elements 20 2014: 86 points

Well to say we were a little disappointed is an understatement, but perhaps I had also expected too much and let’s face it, this area and some grape varieties are not very familiar to me.

In general, on the nose many wines showed expression and a little floral character. As white wines go, these are drinkable and clean but they seemed to have a strong acidity, often a little too much and a lack of depth.

English wines have come a long way in a short time and no doubt they will improve as the vineyards are better understood, the weather is a little warmer and the knowledge of how to treat each vintage deepens.

I would however like to show appreciation to the Sov’ran Ortega… it is a lovely wine and for the cool price of £15 a bottle, I would definitely give it a try and see what you think!

Thank you for reading, we hope you enjoyed it 😊

Harry & David

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