Breaky Bottom New 2019 Releases
In May, Breaky Bottom released three new wines, and today we went to visit Peter to try them.
Unfortunately rain was forecast for almost the exact duration of our visit, but in any weather Breaky Bottom still has an air of magic to it.
We had a quick walk around part of the vineyard on arrival, when the rain was fairly light, and were followed around by Toto the cat. The Chardonnay vines were the most advanced, and were in the midst of vigorous June growth, with buds just prior to flowering. Peter pointed out that the slope in this part of the vineyard was actually north facing - one of a number of things at Breaky Bottom which seems to go against conventional viticulture/winemaking wisdom (the site is also very close to the sea), and yet Peter consistently produces outstanding wines.
As the rain started to get a bit heavier we decided it was probably the right juncture to move inside and start tasting the wines.
First up was Cuvée Peter Christiansen, a 100% Seyval Blanc from 2014. Interestingly Peter said that he was as yet relatively unfamiliar with this wine, having presumably only tasted it a couple of times since disgorgement. He was keen also to point out that compared to the much loved Koizumi Yakumo (2010), this was relatively young, and he does expect it to improve considerably with age. I found it had a surprisingly dry, mineral character, quite a contrast from the sweet and sour profile in the Koizumi Yakumo (a character John Mobbs very neatly describes as "lemon curd"). I asked Peter if he varied the dosage year by year for his 100% Seyval Blanc wines, but interestingly he said they tended to be fairly consistent - around 8 g/l - so presumably the difference in levels of perceived sweetness is down to differences in the fruit from vintage to vintage. I actually really liked the dryness here, which gave the impression of a lower dosage wine, even though that perhaps wasn't the case. An elegant aperitif wine.
Peter also mentioned that he doesn't do malolactic fermentation for any of his wines, which makes Breaky Bottom fairly unusual amongst English sparkling wines as it is a common tool for managing the high acidity we tend to have in grapes grown in our climate. I've certainly encountered some examples of English sparkling which were overwhelmingly acidic, and assumed that was partly down to the absence of malolactic, and possibly related to other factors like dosage levels, age, and of course the levels of acidity / ripeness in the fruit they started out with. I've never found any of Peter's wines to have a level of acidity which was unpleasant though - perhaps partly because even this "new" wine from 2014 would has had nearly 5 years combined aging on the lees and on the cork. Some English sparkling producers are already releasing 2016 vintages.
Onto wine number two for today's tasting, the Cuvée Michelle Moreau. This is a 2014 Chardonnay / Pinot blend (70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot which I think Peter said was half and half Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier). Quite a contrast from the previous wine, a very fruity profile where the Pinot component seemed to be punching above its weight, with berry fruit character more in evidence than the citrus/apple notes you'd expect from the Chardonnay majority. Lovely balance of subtle sweetness and acidity here, and very moreish.
Third and finally Cuvée Oliver Minkley. A 2011 blend of all of the varietals Peter grows - I think it was 60% Chardonnay, 30% Seyval Blanc, and 5% each of Pinot Noir / Pinot Meunier. This was another very different style again and was quite lovely - a rich, luxurious, buttery feel to it, showing the benefit of age. Probably my favourite of the three, but these were all wines I look forward to enjoying again.
Sadly, all good things must come to and end, and after tasting the Cuvée Oliver Minkley I realised we ought to be turning our thoughts to heading home, mindful as ever that Peter is a busy man, and also that we had my 6 year old daughter with us, and it was already around 6pm. We had been lulled into a false sense of security on the way here, the first taxi we'd spotted at Lewes station was prepared to take us all along the (at times quite rough) track to Breaky Bottom. It was a bit more of a challenge on the way back finding a taxi though, particularly as the rain was quite heavy by now, and so in the end we all crammed ourselves into Peter's four wheel drive to get back along the track where the rather unadventurous taxi awaited us at Northease farm. Still, it made for a memorable departure.
Back in Lewes, after dinner at the Lewes Arms, we were treated to a spectacular double rainbow, which the romantic in me likes to believe was emanating from Breaky Bottom.