Black Chalk is among the few most exciting new wineries in the UK. This isn't a discussion. Having won almost every award under the sun in the last few years, the wines that Jacob Leadley and his small team are crafting do all the talking.
Founded in 2015, till 2019 they were purchasing grapes from chalk downland vineyards in Hampshire. Then in 2020, despite the challenges brought by Covid-19 and lockdowns, they completed their new winery surrounded by their own vineyards close to Stockbridge in the Test Valley. Grapes are grown entirely in on the chalk download vineyards of Hampshire.
There's the traditional trio of grapes found in Champagne but an unusually high proportion of Pinot Meunier, a red grape Jacob believes is particularly suited to Hampshire. Fermentation partly in barrel, then the traditional secondary fermentation in bottle, where the wine aged for two years on lees before disgorgement. There's prominent fruit, a real touch of class with rich autolysis, and classic English green apple with floral notes.
The 2018 vintage was legendary, perhaps the greatest this country has ever seen. Not only did the near-perfect growing season provide a bounty of grapes, this bounty was of exceptional quality. In 2018, Black Chalk made more wine than ever before and decided to separate two lots of Classic into 'Version I' and 'Version II'. They decided to release the latter version first, and here it is.
The difference between the two is in the 'malo', or extent of malolactic fermentation. In short, this is where malic acid is converted to softer lactic acid and usually occurs after the primary alcoholic fermentation.
It's what makes those soft, buttery white wines soft and buttery. Usually Black Chalk's sparkling wines have a bit under half of the wine going through malo but 'Version II' is closer to 100%. In winemaker Jacob's words, it's produced a "softer but very pure example of Hampshire sparkling wine and one we are very happy with".
'Version I', which went through the normal Black Chalk amount of malo, will be released in summer 2022.
"Really elegant aromas – creamy, very pure fruit, the finest drift of smokiness. Fine mousse and ripe apple fruit etched with equally fine, ripe acidity. Mouth-filling but tremendous focus, clarity, drive and purity. And substance. A complex beauty. This really is a cut above." - Tamlyn Currin, 17.5 / 20 points, jancisrobinson.com
Click here for tasting notes