Bluebell Vineyard Visit

For the afternoon session of the final day of the Plumpton College Principles of Vinegrowing course instead of the usual practical session in Rock Lodge vineyard we visited Bluebell Vineyard. We were given a highly technical guided tour by their vineyard manager and winemaker Kevin Sutherland. As it happens Kevin formerly taught at Plumpton College before he came to establish Bluebell.

We were treated to glorious weather this afternoon - quite a contrast to all those cold, damp afternoons we had spent at Rock Lodge over the winter! The almost surreal

They have a variety of different soil types in their various parcels at Bluebell - but broadly sandy loam / sandstone - with some different rootstocks in places accordingly, including of course a fair amount of the old stalwart S04. They've also used a number of different clones of the three classic Champagne grapes, so Kevin has quite a broad palette of fruit to work with in the winery.

In the winery Kevin mention how they start with a cool fermentation, which is somewhat unusual, and this is something he does to preserve fruit character.

We did a quick tasting after the tour, starting with their Blanc de Blancs 2014. This has a bright, zesty citrus profile with some hints of vanilla thanks to six months of barrel aging. Like all of Bluebell's sparkling wines, this did not undergo malolactic fermentation, and apparently has dosage of around 8 g/l.

Next their 2014 Classic Cuvée. This is a Chardonnay dominant blend (61% Chardonnay, 24% Pinot Noir, 15% Pinot Meunier), which Kevin said had spent 3.5 years resting on the lees - so there is both quite a lot of fruit present thanks to that cold fermentation (peach came to the fore) and a fair amount of autolytic character, with the two in surprising harmony. Again no MLF, and actually very low dosage (just 2.1 g/l residual sugars), but the end result somehow has nicely balanced acidity - presumably helped in part by the aging.

Finally their 2015 Rosé, roughly half and half Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. An elegant rosé and again a good balance of acidity and sweetness. Some hints of cherry on the nose I thought.


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