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Spanish give English Albariño wine the thumbs up

Published:  20 November, 2017

Chapel Down Winery in Kent is the only UK vineyard to make a wine from 100% Albariño – a grape associated with Galicia in northwest Spain.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) took the English Albariño to Madrid to test Spanish wine experts in a blind tasting. The wine experts admitted they were impressed with the quality of the English wine calling it ‘full’, ‘rich’ and ‘artisanal’.

Two wines were pitted against each other in the tasting - Chapel Down Albariño 2014 limited edition, which retails at £25 and Paz de San Mauro 2016, Rias Baixas, Albariño from Galicia which sells in Spain for €13.40.

The top team of wine connoisseurs taking part in the blind tasting included Pau Roca, secretary general at Federación Española del Vino (FEV).

Pau admitted he was sceptical that the English could produce a decent Albariño and was confident it would be clear which one was the Spanish and which one the English.

“I am astounded. I really thought the English wine was the Spanish and the Spanish was the English,” said Pau.

“I was sceptical when I was asked to taste and English Albariño and would not have thought that the grape would adapt well to English climate but it is a very good wine. I liked both wines but the English one was rounded and full of flavour.”

James Blick, who runs the Spanish food and wine tour company Devour Tours, said the English wine took them “all a little by surprise” and described it as “tight, racy and well-balanced.”

“A very good wine that at once reminded you of a white from Rías Baixas and yet clearly had its own thing going on. This rather informal judgement of Madrid reconfirmed that the English have the know-how, determination and - most importantly - terroir, to make great wine,” he said.

Juan Manuel Bellver, director of one of Spain’s leading specialist wine shops and restaurant Lavinia, agreed with the positive feedback said he was impressed with the artisanal style of the wine.

Meanwhile, Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA admitted that he didn’t expect the English wine to taste better than the Spanish Albarino.

“I was delighted that my fellow tasters were equally impressed by the Chapel Down Albarino. It is yet another example of how English wine makers are proving their products can compete with top quality wines across the globe,” he said.

The Chapel Down wine 2014 vintage comes from England’s first Albariño vineyard in Sandhurst planted on clay.

The fruit was pressed and 30% of it was fermented and matured in old French oak barrels while the remainder was fermented in stainless steel vats. This was followed by nine months maturing on the lees.

Josh Donaghay-Spire, Chapel Down head winemaker, said: “To have had the opportunity to make England’s first Albariño was incredibly exciting, for it to then receive such a positive reception in its spiritual home is truly humbling and shows the potential of the great terroir we have here in Kent.”