English Wine Week: Danbury Ridge Wine Estate Shows Essex in Best Light

Essex in eastern England

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Essex in eastern England

Essex in eastern England

© shutterstock

Ever since England’s emergence as a serious wine producing country around the turn of the millennium, most of the talk has been about the southern counties of Kent, Sussex and Hampshire. But another county, much less glamorous and with the reputation of being a mere rural extension of London’s eastern suburbia, is now becoming a hotspot for quality fruit: unsung Essex in southeast England.

One winemaker even dubbed Essex “the new Elodrado” for English wine. This has much to do with the fact that numerous wineries have been sourcing fruit from Essex for a number of years. Farmers have diversified into grape growing and hitherto few wineries have advertisied their use of Essex fruit. However, Essex-based Danbury Ridge Wine Estate is changing that. It made some waves with its debut 2018 vintage.

John Atkinson MW, viti- and vinicultural consultant for Danbury Ridge Wine Estate, explains what sets Essex apart. The country is slightly warmer than the counties on the English Channel and also rather dry. The predominant soil is clay and some vineyards boast smectite clay which expands as it absorbs water and cracks as it dries out. Atkinson says: “The chemical bonds between clay and water are strong, so the vines have to work hard to get water.” This, he says, “leads to a regulated level of stress.” The vines struggle just enough without suffering water stress and thus channel energy into the fruit rather than vegetative growth. As the clay dries out, it tends to contract and crack, creating numerous fissures below ground that vine routes can penetrate. Atkinson also notes how Essex seems to hold on to more warmth in September and October, the crucial last phase of ripening. “This part of the country seems to have passed a threshold in terms of ripeness and yield.”

The Danbury Ridge wines indeed show the kind of body and fullness that is not usually associated with English still wines.

 

Danbury Ridge Wine Estate Octagon Block Chardonnay 2018

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Danbury Ridge Wine Estate Pinot Noir 2018

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Danbury Ridge Wine Estate Pinot Noir 2019

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