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Details for Brightwell, Oxford Rose

CountryUnited Kingdom
Brightwell Vineyard
(click to find out more)


The Romans brought the vine to England, and the Saxons inherited their vineyards.  The Domesday Book records 46 vineyards, and this number expanded thereafter to satisfy the Norman taste for wine.  By the time of Henry VIII there were 139.
Many were owned by the Church, however, and did not survive the Dissolution of the Monasteries.  This roughly coincided with the start of the “Little Ice Age” with Frost Fairs on the Thames, leading to a further reduction in the surviving vineyards that had flourished during the preceding Medieval Warm Period.
The real deathknell came with the Civil War.  The victorious Puritans grubbed up the vineyards, and by the time of the Restoration the skills required to tend them had been lost.  A few noblemen continued to produce wine on their estates using imported expertise but the last of these, at Castell Coch in South Wales, was ploughed up in 1916 as part of the wartime food production effort.
Modern English wine begins in 1951, when Hambledon in Hampshire was planted with Seyval Blanc to become the first commercial vineyard since Castell Coch.  Others followed, based initially on Seyval Blanc and Müller-Thurgau, augmented in the 1970s by other early-ripening German crosses like Reichensteiner, Huxelrebe and Schönburger.  The style was quite Germanic too, which suited the public taste at a time when Liebfraumilch was the UK’s biggest-selling wine.
The shift to full-bodied dry whites in the Eighties caused a lot of wineries to close – you can’t make Aussie-style Chardonnay in the English climate, even in the good years (two or three each decade).  But plant Chardonnay they did, because it was realised that England is well suited to produce Champagne-style sparkling wines, where underripeness and high acidity are actually required.  Much of southern England, especially the North and South Downs, lies on the same chalk as Champagne.
Today the Champagne grapes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are England’s most-planted varieties, and English sparkling wines compete in quality (and price) with Champagne.  Still whites are now made in a dryer style and largely from Bacchus, which is usefully similar to Sauvignon Blanc.

Brightwell Vineyard

The largest of Oxfordshire’s half a dozen wineries, Brightwell Vineyard lies a mile north of Wallingford on the south bank of the Thames.  Its 14 acres were planted on flinty chalk greensand and gravel between 1988 and 1990, all using the Geneva Double Curtain trellis system.  The rain shadow of the hills surrounding the Thames Bowl make this one of the driest places in England.
It was bought at the turn of the century by New Zealand-born Bob Nielsen and his wife Carol who have extensively renovated it, planting new varieties and expanding the vineyard.  They now have 18 acres from which they produce nine different wines.  There is one traditional-method sparkling white, but the rest of the range is still and includes a remarkably Chablis-esque chardonnay, a rosé and, unusually, two reds.

about this wine About this wine

I told the story of Dornfelder's rapid rise to become the grape of choice for making English reds when we featured Brightwell’s Oxford Regatta a few months ago: you can find that tale here, if you scroll to the bottom.  But it’s a versatile variety, and Brightwell also use it to create their rosé, named Oxford Rose (as in the flower ‐ there’s no accent over the ‘e’).
Picked a couple of days earlier than the red Regatta, this wine is 100% Dornfelder.  The hand-picked grapes were destemmed and crushed, then left to cold soak on the skins for 14 hours overnight before being gently pressed.  Many traditional French rosés are such “vins d’une nuit” ‐ wines of one night.  Indeed, most medieval Bordeaux was produced like this: that’s why we call it claret, from the French ‘clairet’ meaning clear, because the wine was pale and translucent.
Fermentation took 11 days in temperature-controlled stainless steel, with the must kept cool (16 - 18°C) to preserve fresh aromas and pure fruit flavours.  After fermentation it was aged almost a year in stainless steel until being bottled in August 2015.
Like most rosés, it was cold stabilised, fined (with bentonite) and then filtered before bottling.  Clear glass bottles are very revealing of even the smallest amount of sediment!

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