The Pig at Bridge Place

Quite a serendipitous find this - a friend with no particular interest in English wine had invited me down to the Pig at Bridge Place, near Canterbury, for his birthday lunch. On arrival I was delighted to discover that, in line with their ethos about locally sourced food, they also had a strong focus on English wines on the wine list. I counted at least 22 English wines, with over half from Kent.

Their "house" sparkling wine (also available in the nice outside bar / pizzeria) was from Simpsons - just 2.5 miles away from the hotel. The Chalklands Classic Cuvée is a 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay blend, but for me the Chardonnay was a bit more evident, with a largely citrus profile and some refined pastry notes. Very pleasant, would happily have this again.

I decided to seize this opportunity to try and do some English wine evangelism for the friends assembled for lunch, most of whom live in Kent, but generally didn't have much of an interest in the subject.

Finding a good English red for a group used to drinking gutsier wines from warmer climates was perhaps going to be a hard sell. Like many English Pinot Noirs, Simpsons' Rabbit Hole was on the thinner, lighter side, and a bit restrained and austere. This wasn't particularly well received by the group, although at least one friend said even when it came to warm climates she wasn't really a fan of Pinot Noir, and they tend to prefer Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

The Biddenden Bacchus was better received, the usual comparisons to Sauvignon Blanc helped to sell it, and I think one or two of the group said they'd actually had wine from Biddenden before. The label struck me as a bit naff to be honest - albeit charmingly so - harking back to the old days of English wine prior to what Stephen Skelton calls "The Nyetimber Effect". 

I tried some of this and found it to be very drinkable, without some of the slightly-rough-around-the-edges notes of some other Bacchus I've previously tried, and notably absent was that "struck match" reductive quality which is apparently to do with avoiding oxidisation but is something I found a bit overwhelming with, say, Bolney's Bacchus. I would have this again.

Although I should probably have tried a couple more still English wines I just can't resist ESW when it's available, and also after the slightly mixed bag of the stills in terms of the reception from the group I wanted a bit more of a surefire crowd pleaser. So I ordered a bottle of Hambledon's Premiere Cuvée, which did seem to go down really well with the group. Although that said I enthused about it so much prior to its arrival that they probably felt compelled to murmur in appreciation. Once again those rich buttery notes came to the fore, which the group agreed with, although when I tried to explain it as being a product of malolactic fermentation eyes were glazing over a bit. A useful reminder that not everyone wants wine to be a clinical assessment, most people quite reasonably want to just relax and enjoy it.

Although we had briefly strayed all the way to Hampshire with the Hambledon, I was keen to try and bring things back to the local area (when in Rome and all that) so for the next wine we returned to the Kent section of the wine list with a bottle of Squerryes. I'm still a bit sceptical when it comes to the debate about the importance of soil types - I consider myself more Skeltonite than Goode-ite. That said - and quite possibly because we had been on a run of chalk based vineyards with all the sparkling wines so far - my first thought on nosing this was of chalk. I obviously don't mean the actual smell of chalk itself, but something about a particular kind of purity / elegance / finesse which is hard to put my finger on, and is right at the outer extremes of that which my limited sense of smell can detect, but which seems to be a running theme in chalk based ESWs. Sure enough, when I looked it up, Squerryes is on a chalk seam. Quite possibly just a lucky guess though. It's 35% Chardonnay, 34% Pinot Noir, 31% Pinot Meunier - almost a third each, with an unusually high percentage of Menuier.

The trope of "locally sourced ingredients" has become a bit of a cliché in restaurants, and sometimes gets bandied about a bit too freely. Here at The Pig though they really do take this seriously - from the produce on the plate (the mushrooms on toast I had were from grown on site, for example) to the exciting wine list - with Simpsons just a couple of miles away. There's something really quite special about being out in the countryside and being able to eat and drink the fruits of the surrounding landscape.


Popular Posts