Liam Idzikowski was a Northern Irish newbie jockey who bought fed up with the local weather there. He has ended up within the warmest, driest nook of the British Isles, making wines which have opened an entire new chapter within the historical past of English wine, even when their provenance is distinctly unsung. However he took a significant swerve alongside the way in which.
After I met Idzikowski final 12 months, I used to be stunned to be taught that it was an episode of a BBC TV sequence I offered again within the Nineteen Nineties that set him off on his wine journey.
He was so entranced by the nice and cozy, sunny local weather at Williams Selyem vineyard in northern California, as seen in our program on Pinot Noir, that he wrote to the vineyard providing his companies as an intern. “They thought it was hilarious that they might make use of somebody who would willingly do all of the arduous work,” he instructed me. In Sonoma, he was effectively and actually bitten by the wine bug and went on to work at Tyrrell’s in Australia’s Hunter Valley in addition to in South Africa and the Rhône.
By 2011, Idzikowski had graduated with first-class honors from Plumpton in Sussex, Britain’s middle of studying about and analysis into wine manufacturing. “I actually loved Plumpton,” he mentioned, “and the concept then was to to migrate, possibly to California or Australia.” However earlier than he might be lured to balmier climes, he was supplied a job as winemaker at Langham Property in Dorset, south-west England. “I bought fortunate as a result of it is a good website and making good glowing wine there was straightforward. It is one of many few websites in England with real Champagne chalk, the one place the place the 2 chalks overlap.”
However Idzikowski needed to make nonetheless wine, not the glowing wine that has dominated the English wine scene this century, so in 2015 he moved to close by Lyme Bay, which was beginning to get a little bit of a popularity for its nonetheless Pinot Noir. He knew that Pinot Noir will be tough to ripen correctly and is liable to rot. The 2012 classic had been notoriously wet and difficult in England, with vineyards riddled with rot. However many wineries in counties together with Sussex, Hampshire and even Cornwall managed to purchase clear fruit from the a lot drier county of Essex within the east. So when Idzikowski was supplied Pinot Noir grapes from a brand new property in jap Essex in 2016, he gladly accepted.
Over to Janine Bunker who, together with her sister Sophie, now runs that property, identified at the moment as Danbury Ridge. Again then, nonetheless, she was as began as anybody by what Idzikowski achieved. “Our vines had gone into the bottom solely in 2014. We had been nonetheless simply growers. However then Liam despatched us his 2016s made at Lyme Bay from Danbury Ridge grapes. As soon as we tasted Liam’s wine, we rapidly determined to enter grape-to-glass.” Their launch classic, 2018, was made at Lyme Bay, however by 2019 they had been making wine in their very own no-expense-spared property vineyard, designed by Idzikowski and backed by the Bunker household’s dedication to make England’s best nonetheless wines.
The preliminary lightbulb second for the Bunkers had are available in 2012 when Janine’s father, Mike Bunker, who had retired from GAM Investments in Hong Kong in 2003, was out strolling with a pal who talked about a profitable winery in Gloucestershire on the Welsh border. Mike and Heather Bunker had grown up in Southend-on-Sea in Essex, and a very long time in the past had purchased land 20 miles north of the seaside city, close to the village of Danbury.
It had beforehand been planted to orchards, and was then contract-farmed. However in accordance with Janine, her father is extraordinarily decided, so as soon as he had the concept to create a winery, the required soil analyzes had been rapidly undertaken and the primary of the Bunkers’ three vineyards planted on the property simply two years later (the opposite two had been planted in 2017).
Being Essex natives, the Bunkers hardly wanted to research the native local weather. They knew this specific nook of the county effectively. The Dengie peninsula, east of Chelmsford, is bounded by the Blackwater river to the north and Crouch river to the south, and identified inside the English wine world as Crouch Valley. It escapes the worst of prevailing storms from the south-west and is, crucially, typically frost-free.
My fellow Grasp of Wine John Atkinson, having fallen for the prevalence of Crouch Valley grapes, is now additionally a part of the Danbury Ridge crew, so he was charged with exhibiting me round after I visited in the direction of the tip of their 2022 grape harvest. Like Idzikowski, Atkinson is annoyed that different English wine producers have a tendency of their publicity to give attention to soil varieties, particularly the chalk of which the Champenois boast, fairly than local weather. For the Danbury Ridge crew, it’s the heat and the dearth of rain and frost that permits them to get their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes ripe sufficient to supply some actually beautiful nonetheless wines, fairly than selecting them as early as most different English vignerons do , when acid ranges are excessive sufficient to make glowing wine.
However Atkinson can also be satisfied that it’s the clays and gravels beneath the floor of the native vineyards, fairly than chalk, that play an necessary half in figuring out the undoubted high quality of Danbury Ridge’s nonetheless Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. On arrival on the property, I used to be given Atkinson’s nine-page presentation and requested to look at his brief movie on the Danbury Ridge geology. “Right here we go,” Idzikowski muttered, as we sat down to look at, confessing that he initially thought he would be capable of make a passable nonetheless Pinot Noir solely two years out of each 5, however he has truly managed it yearly since 2018 .
Though the standard of Crouch Valley grapes is an open secret amongst English wine producers, you not often see the identify on wine labels, and there are remarkably few wineries within the area. New Corridor and Childord Hundred had been first planted in 1969 and 1972 respectively, however with very completely different grape varieties. In response to Janine Bunker, “there’s been an explosion of planting lately in Essex. Inside 5 miles of Danbury, there are actually 25 vineyards however none, besides New Corridor, have a vineyard.” The native (substantial) landowning households are reluctant to promote their land, however have been leasing it to incomers who promote the grapes to quite a lot of wine producers throughout England, together with the Bunkers.
Many of those vineyards are managed by Duncan McNeill, who is aware of each sq. meter of Crouch Valley, having lower his enamel at New Corridor between 2006 and 2010. Assembly him in a winery overlooking New Corridor with a effective estuarine view, I requested whether or not he’ d think about a shopper a couple of miles north, close to Colchester, as an example. He reacted as if I would urged planting vines on the moon. “Completely completely different soils there.”
So heat and dry was final summer time that it left deep fissures within the clay beneath our toes. “I’ve by no means seen cracks like this,” mentioned McNeill, “and I have been speaking about drought stress in UK vineyards for years.” The Danbury Ridge crew ended up watering some vines by hand, and Idzikowski began to fret about forest fires.
A visit to Crouch Valley was sufficient to make me ponder whether, ultimately, elements of the UK might even change into too heat for wine manufacturing. However for the second British wine lovers can really feel proud that we have proven we will make first rate nonetheless wine in addition to glowing.
Essex’s greatest crimson and white
Not like many English wine producers, Danbury Ridge would not promote direct to customers. Octagon is its extra oaked, slower-maturing bottling. Octagon Chardonnay 2020 will likely be launched later this 12 months, however no Octagon Pinot Noir 2020 was made.
Danbury Ridge Chardonnay 2020
£34.95 to £39.40 NY Wines of Cambridge, Grape Britannia, Previous Bridge, Padstow Wine Co, Hedonism, Swig, Handford, L’Artwork du Vin in Scotland
Danbury Ridge Pinot Noir 2020
£35 to £40.50 Previous Bridge, Swig, NY Wines of Cambridge, Cambridge Wine Retailers, Grape Britannia, Hennings, Handford, L’Artwork du Vin in Scotland, Hedonism
Tasting notes on Purple Pages of JancisRobinson.com
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