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Four days of toasts

Bride Valley Vineyard in Dorset, England (Photograph supplied)

I was sitting at my classroom desk when a messenger arrived from our headmaster’s office: “All boys are to go to the assembly hall immediately and wait for a special announcement.”

Once we were all seated the headmaster entered and stood in the centre of the stage, and that is when I heard eight words that I have clearly remembered over so many years: “The King is dead, long live the Queen.”

I will certainly be toasting 70 years of dedication and hard work. She deserves our best wishes – whether we are loyal royalists, do not support this institution at all or feel, as I suspect many of my fellow Bermudians do, that “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. I have been happy to have that British stamp on my passport when facing immigration in some rather off-the-beaten-path countries!

For this occasion, I will suggest only bubblies from England or British Commonwealth countries. I do not wish to be positive about climate change, but it has resulted in sparkling wines from England that are directly comparable with champagne. In fact, it is my understanding that historically the English made sparkling wine before the French did.

In 1987, Steven and Bella Spurrier, who had a 200-acre farm in Dorset, decided that the clean chalky Kimmeridgian soil was almost identical to that found in the Champagne region of France and the fine south-facing slopes offered a favourable climate for the cultivation of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier vines – classic sparkling wine varieties. They planted 44,000 vines on a selected 25 acres and had their first harvest in 2011. Steven, who sadly died last year, was the man behind the wine-world-changing 1976 Paris blind tasting where California dared take on France – and win! He has always been a wine hero of mine.

Our 2016 Bride Valley Dorset Blanc de Blanc is silver pale with lemony tints, the colour reflecting the cool growing season and general lightness of the vintage. White flowers and springlike freshness on the nose with citrus elements and a hint of dry honey. Great purity of fruit on the palate, showing a light creaminess at the start contrasting to a tart Granny Smith acidity on the finish. The Wine Enthusiast magazine awarded it 94/100 and wrote: “The merest touch of nettle merges into a supreme lemon freshness on the nose. The palate rounds everything out with a subtle yeasty creaminess that boosts the pure lemon flavour. It never seems overly opulent or tart, holding delicious tension throughout. Drink now to 2025.” Very limited stocks. $79 (Stock #6533).

I think that we should let the Brits review Bride Valley Dorset Cremant. Decanter magazine thinks: “Bride Valley in Dorset was established by Decanter's consultant editor, the late Steven Spurrier and is now run by his wife, Bella. Though non-vintage, the current incarnation of this new cuvée – which replaces the brut reserve, and is the UK's first crémant – is 100 per cent from the fantastic 2018 vintage.

“Half chardonnay, and the rest made up of pinot noir and pinot meunier, this wine is described by the team at Bride Valley as 'a wine that sparkles rather than a sparkling wine', having a less aggressive fizz than traditional sparkling wine. It's a mellow mouthful, with attractive lemon citrus and green apple notes, and brioche creaminess to round it out. 91/100.” $65 (Stock #6534).

Our 2021 Bird in Hand Sparkling Rosé is a 100 per cent pinot noir from the Adelaide Hills of Australia that is bursting with delicious strawberries. My sales pitch has always been: “If you don’t like Australian wine, don’t like pinot noir and don’t like sparkling wine, try this one now and cure all three problems at once.” It is so delicious and one of our top selling bubblies for many years. $26.15 (Stock #6088).

I can’t get Little Richard singing Good Golly, Miss Molly out of my mind as I offer 2017 Mollydooker Miss Molly South Australia Sparkling Shiraz. Vivacious and full of class, Miss Molly is brimming with vivid maraschino cherry and plum jam that progress into layers of milk chocolate and mocha. Toffee and cinnamon notes intermix throughout the flavour spectrum as the bubbles add an undeniable vibrancy to the mouth feel. This wine is a lively celebration of McLaren Vale shiraz, fitting for any occasion.

Parker’s Wine Advocate says, “Dense and chocolatey, with blueberry overtones, the 2017 Miss Molly Sparkling Shiraz stays true to the house style of Mollydooker, delivering plenty of ripe fruit, a smooth, supple texture, and a lasting finish. Just know what to expect going in – this is not a light, refreshing quaffer but an intense, flavourful red wine that happens to have some bubbles.” $38 (Stock #6078).

Our 2018 Lightfoot & Wolfville Sparkling Rosé is from a winery in Nova Scotia that farms organically and biodynamically. I thought that I should give a Canadian the opportunity to comment and so went to the Natalie Maclean site, where I found the following from Jennifer Havers, who has reached WSET Level 3 in her wine education: “Gorgeous! Made from 100 per cent pinot noir in the traditional method, this wine is bursting with aromas of fresh strawberries and cherries, along with fresh, yeasty bread. Vibrant and fresh on the palate, mousse is persistent and crisp, and ripe berry notes are balanced by some mouth-watering acidity, along with a citrusy, fresh finish. Perfect to accompany any fresh seafood dishes. 93/100.” $42 (Stock #9706).

If you just wish to celebrate with red, white and rosé still wines we have many British Commonwealth ones from South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Canada. The United Kingdom will be celebrating from June 2 until June 5, so you may need a selection. As my wife suggested this occasion to write about, I suspect we will need a bottle for each day.

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at mrobinson@bll.bm. Burrows Lightbourn have stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm

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Published May 26, 2022 at 7:58 am (Updated May 26, 2022 at 7:47 am)

Four days of toasts

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