A Vine Romance in Rural Dorset – We’ve had a week in Dorset recently, relaxing and catching up with old friends who’ve moved out from the ‘burbs to the country. I took the opportunity to visit Langham Vineyard, home of some of my favourite English sparkling wines. I like to think that I know a bit about sparkling wines, having worked with a leading champagne house for many years, and I have to say that I’m pretty blown away by the quality of the Langham English sparklings.
The vineyard is not far from Dorchester, and open to the public for tours, and tastings Wednesday to Sunday with an onsite cafe too, (a separate enterprise) where visitors can enjoy light meals (that can, of course, be accompanied, by a glass or two of the wines).
We were shown around by Fiona, (a mine of information), and the vineyard was positively buzzing with people helping pick this year’s grapes. She told us that lots of locals come and pick, and they’re paid by the hour – not piecework as is the case in many vineyards. This means that pickers can take their time, and only pick the best quality grapes. Pickers can also opt to be paid a proportion of their earnings in wine at a discount too, so word has obviously got around – hence there were plenty of helpers! Every tenth row of vines is left unmown to encourage wildflowers for diversity. After the amazing summer we’ve had, I wasn’t at all surprised to be told that this year’s grape yield is likely to be almost double the average yield, and all from the same vines. But they’ve recently planted an additional 45 acres and have added some Pinot Gris vines. Langham also produces some still wines, and I’m told that its Pinot Noir sells out extremely fast, (no doubt re-ordered swiftly once folk have tasted it!)
With its south-facing slopes, chalky soil and unique microclimate, the Langham vineyard is perfectly situated for growing the classic grape varieties that comprise champagne. Of course, they can’t call their sparkling wine (made, too, from Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir grapes, as is champagne) champagne. But to all intents, purposes and palates, this English sparkling wine gives the champagne a good run for its money!
The grapes are picked and pressed – within hours – each October and left in temperature-controlled steel tanks or barrels (including some used French barriques) till the following August when it’s blended and bottled.
With bottling and maturing it’s three years from picking to popping the cork.
There are five different sparklings produced by Langham and having had the chance to taste almost all of them now, I rate them very highly. There’s the Culver Classic Cuvée NV (51% Pinot Noir, 35% Pinot Meunier, 14% Chardonnay) and the Corallian NV (81% Chardonnay, 11% Pinot Noir, 8% Pinot Meunier) both at £29.50. Then the Rosé NV (a base vintage from 2018, blended with 15% reserve wine and juice from all three grape varieties grown at Langham: 46% Pinot Noir, 18% Pinot Meunier, 36% Chardonnay £32.50). The Blanc de Blancs 2018 is 100% Chardonnay and delicious at £38.50. Finally, the Pinot Meunier 2018 – from an exceptional year and 100% barrel fermented – is the priciest, but a fab wine at £47. We tasted four of these wines with Fiona at the end of our tour, sitting in the sunshine at the edge of the vineyard, and they really are fabulous!
If you’re visiting Dorset, I’d urge you to add Dorchester to your itinerary and include a visit to Langham. But if not, you can buy the wines online directly from Langham or Lea & Sandeman (in Chiswick and Barnes, plus other locations)