The multi-award winning English Sparkler Wyfold has just released its 2013 Vintage, and when the chance came up to taste the original trilogy of Vintages, including two never commercially released, I jumped at it.
Following the death of Formula One engineer Harvey Postlethwaite, his widow Cherry was keen to fulfil his vineyard-owning ambitions, and in 2003 she purchased land in the Chiltern Hills and planted 14 rows of vines. Teaming up with best friend Barbara Laithwaite (Director of the eponymous wine mail order giant), both passed their viticultural qualifications at Plumpton College, and a new venture was born.
As a start-up winery with no onsite production facilities, this was given over to famed English producer Ridgeview who, in return for a sizeable portion of the crop, would turn the grapes in to a fully realised sparkling wine. Both the 2006 and 2008 Vintages fell under this agreement and, as such, the final production numbers were too small to justify a release.
Wyfold is made in the traditional Champagne method using the classic grape varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Of interest is the solid reliance on Pinot Meunier, sometimes considered the lesser Champagne variety. Even though it forms just 16.5% of plantings, with the variable UK weather it can sometimes fare better than the Pinot Noir (33.5% of plantings).
In 2006 the number of vines was upped to 4,000, and increased once again in 2014, with 9,000 vines now spread over 2 hectares.
Wyfold (June 2017)
Following the two successful production runs (2007 was a write-off due to poor weather), fully contracted wine-making was put in place from the 2009 Vintage to ensure that all of the bottles produced would be labelled under the Wyfold name.
The resulting wine was quick to receive critical acclaim and won the prestigious Judgement of Parsons Green. The subsequent releases of the 2010 / 2011 vintages have fared just as well, winning a succession of medals, trophies and high scores by esteemed wine magazine Decanter.
Wyfold Vineyard Brut 2006 (52% CH/32% PN/16% PM), Oxfordshire, UK, 12%, £N/A
Even though 2006 was a generously yielding year, due to the SWAP agreement the final number of bottles produced under the Wyfold name was just 576! This first vintage is also unique in having a label that was thereafter discarded as being ‘too rustic’ to compare to other quality Sparkling/Champagne wines.
Medium golden yellow in colour with rusty bronze tints and an extremely fine beading from the traditional production method. On the nose there was mature, woody, bruised/baked golden delicious apple, a touch of dried lemon curd, cinnamon and biscuit. This smelt just like an apple orchard in autumn.
The palate delivered upfront mousse that immediately frothed up, and a clean striking acidity laced with light refreshing lemon citrus and green apple. The aged fruit complexity was there but it still managed to deliver youthful character and vibrancy. Light as a feather but carries a huge creamy weight that fills the mouth. The syrupy bruised fruit finish was medium plus. I’m a big fan of this ‘very-English’ tasting sparkling.
Wyfold Vineyard Brut 2008 (76% CH/9% PN/15% PM), Oxfordshire, UK, 12.5%, £Unreleased
Under the SWAP agreement, a mere 296 bottles of the 2008 were crafted. Due to the minuscule production, bottles were adorned with standard labels as opposed to vintage specific ones, and the Vintage, although bottled, went undeclared and unreleased.
Medium straw yellow with golden hints and a fine bead, this is noticeably more youthful than the 2006. The nose has bread, butter, honeyed citrus, yellow tropical fruit, and is much more in line with a traditional Champagne as opposed to English Sparkling. The aromas are there but needed teasing out, and this still feels a little closed/restrained.
The palate once again had a vibrant fresh mousse and a good splash of fresh lemon juice. This time around the apple played much less of a part. The lighter mid-palate of the 2006 has really been filled out here, but overall, this is probably more singular in tone.
I asked Barbara Laithwaite as to where Wyfold was stylistically sitting in terms of England vs. Champagne and she said she is looking to balance the two. The south facing gravel/limestone site is perfect for the Champagne style but, being fairly high at 120m altitude, you also get the late start/long season which encourages the hedgerow/apple orchard fruitiness.
The medium finish added a touch of syrup and the pleasant bitterness of grapefruit. This one is only just starting to come in to its own and has a life ahead of it sadly only limited by the small number of bottles available.
Wyfold Vineyard Brut 2009 (63% CH/17% PN/20% PM), Oxfordshire, UK, 12.5%, £33
Now free of the SWAP agreement, the full run of 2,449 bottles were produced which, in the time between tasting the wine and writing up these notes, have now completely sold through.
Medium straw yellow in colour with golden tints, the nose was full of fresh zesty lemon citrus.
The lemon carries through to the palate which adds a bready richness, light white pepper spice, and the customary syrup to the end palate. The overall sensation is rich and dairy, and the cream is just starting to settle in against the acidity which still characterises the palate. As before this is a very even blend that fills the mouth.
Very quaffable and easy drinking, the medium length finish is all about the lemon, with just a touch of grapefruit bitterness at the end. I have no doubt that this will settle further with time. Overall this was a wonderful and rare tasting of the initial 3 productions from Wyfold showcasing a crystal clear evolution of labelling and style.
With the new plantings bedded down and a good sized 2014 harvest, a Rosé has now been added to the range. Check out the latest news at the Wyfold website, or click here to buy the 2013 release (whilst stocks last).