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What our expert thought of Chateau Tooting




the tasting

The Tasting


This has a rather distinctive and very attractive colour; it’s a bit deeper than a Provençal rosé, and not so much pink as an extremely pale red.
 
There’s a pronounced, summer-scented nose that is aromatic and floral.  It smells of elderflower, grapefruit and grass cuttings, with just a touch of Sauvignon Blanc-style cat’s pee.  The overall effect, of a hedgerow in summer, is very typical of English still whites.  With air and warmth, a note of underripe strawberry creeps in but I doubt I’d guess this as a rosé from the scent alone.
 
The palate is very fresh, with lots of zingy acidity.  But it isn’t excessive, especially not by English wine standards, and is backed up by plenty of crisp redcurrant, grapefruit, raspberry and gooseberry fruit.  Though the wine at first tastes dry, it’s actually just off-dry.  There’s a little bit of sweetness here to offset the acidity and round out the slightly rustic flavours.
 
That touch of sweetness is more detectable on the after-palate and the surprisingly long finish, where it nicely balances the mouthwatering acidity.


Assessment


This really shouldn't work as a wine.  As an idea it’s inspiring and frankly marvellous, but to make a single wine from grapes at all stages of ripeness, of dozens of different, largely unknown varieties, grown by a hundred or so amateurs in their back gardens… it ought to be awful.
 
But it isn’t.  It’s really good.  It’s very recognisably English, too, with that grassy elderflower nose and zingy grapefruit palate.  Hats off to winemaker Clive Vickers, who has melded all those unknown quantities into something quite delicious.  I wish I knew how he did it, but all I have is that he was very gentle with the pressing so as not to extract any harsh tannins from the pips and skins.  There must be a lot more to it than that.
 
The warm, dry 2016 vintage will have played a part, too, allied to the “urban heat island” effect: London is a degree or two warmer than the surrounding countryside, providing a welcome boost to ripeness.  And perhaps the sheer diversity of varieties has actually worked in this wine’s favour, adding complexity and balancing out under- and over-ripeness in the myriad of contributing grape parcels.
 
Château Tooting is an exciting and inspiring (not to mention delightfully barking) idea; I’m already wondering where I could squeeze a vine into my postage-stamp of a north London back garden.  But it’s also, incredibly, a remarkably decent drink.
 
Sadly there isn’t very much of it, and the case or two we have remaining after filling your pouches is all there is left anywhere.  When it’s gone, it’s gone.  But the 2017 vintage (which should be excellent given last year’s Indian summer) will be available in April.



Tasting notes

Appearance
clear fairly pale dusky pink
Nose

Intensity pronounced

Aromas floral (elderflower), citrus (white grapefruit), herbaceous (grass cuttings, hint of cat’s pee). With air & warmth, unripe strawberry

Development youthful
Palate

Sweetness off-dry, but tastes dry due to acidity

Acidity high-

Body light+

Intensity medium

Flavours red berries (redcurrant, raspberry), citrus (white grapefruit), green fruit (gooseberry)
Finish

Length medium(+, just)

Flavours as palate, mouthwatering, nice sweetness/acid balance
Other notes
Unoaked. Summer-scented, hedgerow nose. Tastes very English.
Crowd-sourced Château Tooting contains practically every grape grown in England, including Bacchus, Solaris, Huxelrebe, Madeleine Angevine and Seyval Blanc (for the whites), and Pinot Noir, Rondo, Black Hamburg and Dornfelder (for the reds).  But many of the contributors don’t even know what variety they’ve got in their back gardens!


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