Latest News From DBM Wines
Celebrating English Wine Week: 19th-27th June 2021
Once a year we lift a glass in celebration of the wonderful diversity and craftsmanship that goes into the wines made across England… Happy English Wine Week!
Although England has gained international acclaim for its wines in only the last decade or so, this island has a long history of growing grapes and producing local wines. Like many other parts of Europe, grape vines were first introduced to England by the Romans as early as 43 AD. By the Norman conquest in the 11th century, wine making had already been taken up by monastic institutions and was flourishing. A few years later, the Domesday book references over 40 established vineyards across Southern England and, in the almost 1000 years since then, that number has grown to 543 with a further 226 spread throughout the rest of the British Isles.
Demand is growing for premium English wines, and producers are listening: the total hectarage of vines planted across Britain has increased by 150% over the past 10 years, with 26% of grape growers planning to plant new vines over the next 3 years. The top grape varieties grown are classic Champagne varietals Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, driven by the heavily-weighted production of traditional method sparkling wines. However, there are an increasing number of still wines being produced, and producers are experimenting more with other climate-tolerant varieties.
Despite the influx of vineyards and wineries over the past decade, England is still very much a country which is finding its footing internationally… and that’s OK. During the English wine revival in the 1950s, it was thought that the cultivation of German varietals, such as Seyval Blanc and Silvaner, would be ideal in England as the climates are similar between the two countries. However, it has been the classic grapes of Champagne which have garnered interest and propelled English wines to international acclaim. Sparkling wine production has managed to increase both visibility and the reputation of English wines in the international market, proving that they are a viable contender in the sparkling wine category (in fact, several Champagne houses have since planted vines in the South of England, most notably Taittinger and Vranken Pommery).
English producers are now starting to have a presence at international wine fairs and producers will look to continue to increase distribution to existing markets, the biggest currently being the US and Scandinavia. Moving forward it will be interesting to see how England differentiates itself and what innovations are to come. All considered, it is a really exciting time in the history of English wine.
Whilst there are over 165 wineries producing in Britain currently, the vast majority lie in the south of England, as mentioned. However, this is not indicative of the quality of other regions. Here are three of our top picks from Sussex and beyond:
Having been the first winery to be awarded the ‘Sussex Wine’ PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) which was only created in 2017, Rathfinny have gone from strength to strength and currently produce a range of outstanding sparkling wines made from the classic grapes of Champagne.
Owners Mark and Sarah Driver have taken a low intervention approach, allowing the terroir and grapes to speak for themselves which imbue their wines with a wonderful sense of place. Unlike other sparkling wine producers they only produce vintage cuveés, meaning that each one made will be unique to one another.
Local to Bristol, Aldwick Estate is set in picturesque North Somerset with 11 acres of vineyards amongst its 300 acre farm. The farm has been run by the Watts family for five generations, taking the reins of the estate in 1957, but it wasn’t until 2007 that a plan was conceived for a vineyard to be established. The winemaker is Steve Brooksbank at Bagborough near Shepton Mallet whose calm pragmatism and passion shows through in the clear pure flavours of the wines. Unlike in Sussex the soils here are more clay-based, which can be a challenge to work with, but the medals that the wines have been awarded are testament to their success and the attention to detail that is lavished on the vineyards.
Aldwick Mary’s Rose 2019: Named after Mary Joyce Hathway, who came to Aldwick Court Farm as the beautiful bride of Dennis Watts in 1957. Her much-beloved gardens, subsequently neglected but now under restoration, often give rise to the observation: ‘If there was one spare foot of soil, Mary planted a rose’. Made from a blend of Pinot Noir, Regent and Solaris, this is a dry, aromatic rose packed full of bright pineapple, pear and lychee notes.
Castle Brook Vineyard
For our final producer, let us whisk you away to the heart of the Wye Valley in Herefordshire. In 2004 the first vines were planted on the site of an old Roman vineyard and, in fact, the name itself comes from the old farmhouse that sits at the bottom of the vineyard which was mentioned in the Domesday book. Castle Brook produces just three wines, all sparkling cuveés using Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. All three cuveés are matured for 6 months before being aged for over four years following secondary fermentation, resulting in complex, flavoursome wines. With such care and time taken over each wine, it should come as no surprise to hear that Castle Brook have consistently won awards for their wines since the very first release in 2006.
Bordeaux 2020: Vintage Report
Each year, the wine trade eagerly anticipates the launch of Bordeaux’s latest vintage release, and “En Primeur” campaign.
The wines are tasted from barrel and offered as futures (En Primeur) for delivery in a couple of years’ time when bottled, which has traditionally been an opportunity for customers to purchase fine claret at a preferential price.
This year is the launch of the 2020 vintage…
Hot on the heels of two fantastic vintages - 2018 and 2019 - 2020 had a lot to live up to.
It is rare to have had three such fine vintages in a row, with the last fine trio being those of ‘88, ‘89 and ‘90... but 2020 did not disappoint. Hailed as the third year of ‘very good’ and ‘outstanding’ vintages, the best wines from both sides of the river show masterful poise, elegance and precision with wonderful fruit concentration and high tannins.
There have been similarities drawn up between the 2016, 2018 and 2019 growing seasons, but where the 2016 delivered both quantity and concentration, and both ‘18 and ‘19 yields reached the 10-year average, various climatic issues resulted in 2020 having 10% lower yields than the two years preceding it. 2020 was less homogenous than 2019, with different terroirs having greater impact than previous vintages and these unique differences being keenly expressed in the wines produced.
Many have claimed 2020 as a ‘Merlot’ vintage due to favourable conditions on the Right bank, but to do so would be disregarding the sheer quality of many wines produced on the Left. In essence, this vintage is all about terroir.
The 2020 vintage kicked off with both a mild and wet winter and spring, resulting in early bud break, flowering, and fruit set. This put the vines two weeks ahead of their usual cycle. May experienced occasional bouts of rain, hail and frost which would have reduced overall yields without impacting quality. Due to this wet weather mildew was a major issue to be tackled, relying on each estate’s own management to control infection levels.
Whilst 2020 was as hot overall as 2018, and significantly warmer during the first part of the year, the summer was cooler than it had been the previous two years, allowing for a slower development of the grapes. From mid-June the dry season began, with drought lasting 50 days until mid-August. Vines planted on clay-rich soils, which is what dominates the vineyards of the Right bank and those of northern Medoc, were able to retain water during this period and prevent drought stress.
When the rain finally did arrive, however, it came in large downpours primarily overnight. Luckily, this merely refreshed the vines without diluting as there was a lot of runoff in the vineyards; what this did do was moderate alcohol levels which, combined with fruit concentration and high tannins, provided a wonderful balance. On the Right bank potential alcohol levels dropped by as much as a whole degree.
The amount of rainfall vineyards received differed greatly on both sides of the river with the Left bank receiving about 4 times the amount of rainfall than the Right. After a week of heavy rain, the remainder of August was cooler than it had been earlier in the summer, which allowed the grapes to continue their slow ripening development, although the warmer weather did return mid-September. This resulted in smaller berries in loose clusters with thick, intensely pigmented skins.
The early flowering proved to be a saving grace. Harvest began earlier than normal with many estates choosing to pick their Merlots in early to mid-September and finishing their Cabernets at the start of October. Additionally. September was hot and dry, so for grapes that were left longer on the vines to ripen there would have been the risk of water evaporation (transpiration), early ripening Merlot once again being less likely to have been impacted. When the weather did break again at the beginning of October, almost all grapes had been picked except for a few parcels of Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc. If harvest had not commenced when it did, the quality of the Cabernets would have been drastically impacted by the sheer amount of rainfall in October.
Whilst a handful of climactic issues made 2020 a vintage for strategic choices in regards to how individual plots were tended and picking dates, it was definitely a year for winemakers, many opting to use a lighter touch due to the natural concentration and high tannins produced. A great deal of care was made to gain the best expression of the vintage itself, which resulted in winemakers choosing to use a light touch. The process of pumping the juice from the bottom of the tank over the grape skins at the top (remontage) was kept to a minimum (with some estates opting to not disturb the skins at all) as the juice from the thick skinned, richly coloured grapes had already been imbued upon entering the tank. Producers also reviewed their maturation techniques, with a shift to large wooden vats (foudres), clay amphorae and concrete eggs in a bid to reduce the amount of new oak influence.
Despite being lower in yields, the quality of wines produced by estates that were able to successfully manage the mildew, drought and transpiration were outstanding on both the Left and Right banks. The wines demonstrate great focus and precision in the winemaking, resulting in wines which possess wonderful depth, structure, and freshness of fruit flavours. Easy to appreciate whilst not lacking in complexity, the wines of Bordeaux from 2020 are a celebration of the skill and perseverance of both the growers and winemakers alike. A unique, extraordinary vintage.
World-Class English Sparkling Wine
Rathfinny has established a commanding reputation as one of the country’s leading wineries in a very short time and we’re now delighted to stock their world-class English sparkling wine.
‘It’s a genuine delight to have our full range of Sussex Sparkling wines now listed by DBM Wines, who are exactly the premium and dynamic retailer we love to work with. We really value their collaborative approach and proactivity’.
Rob Buckhaven, Rathfinny Brand Ambassador.
Established in 2010 by husband & wife team Mark and Sarah Driver, Rathfinny set out to produce one of the world’s finest sparkling wines from a perfect site in Sussex, and they haven’t disappointed. Since the launch of their first wine in 2018 they audaciously aimed to set the benchmark for English Sparkling Wine.
In 2019 their brand new Rosé 2016 and Blanc de Noirs 2015 was chosen as 'Sparkling Wine of the Month' at The Ritz London. Only the second time in the Ritz's 113-year history that a non-Champagne has been given this accolade.
"One of England's finest", says Dr Jamie Goode, Wine Anorak.
"Rathfinny are producing refined sparkling wines that would be entirely comfortable served alongside their famous brethren from across the Channel. Their Classic Cuvée has lovely energy and is bright, crisp, and precise, the Rosé is a very elegant pale style that is deliberately refreshing rather than heavy, the Blanc de Blancs has the most delicious creamy structure, and the Blanc de Noirs has quite a masculine reserve that will develop beautifully over the next 12 months. These are exciting wines that will reward investigation!" Aidan Bell
Each case contains:
3 x Rathfinny Classic Cuvée 2016
Radiant lemon in hue, with an expressive nose of fresh red orchard apples, a creamy tangerine mousse punctuated by toasty notes of almond brittle, and a honeydew melon.
1 x Rathfinny Rosé 2016
Vivid coral in hue, Rathfinny Rosé has a lifted nose of wild strawberries and mandarin zest, giving way to a rich mousse of Rainier cherries and candied red apple skin, and a silky, strawberry shortcake finish.
1 x Rathfinny Blanc de Blancs 2016
Pale honeysuckle in colour, with a sumptuous nose of lemon curd over buttered croissant, delicate bubbles accented by fresh grapefruit on the palate, and a generous peachy finish.
1 x Rathfinny Blanc de Noirs 2015
An enticing blush sets the scene for perfumed peony and wild strawberry on the nose, while on the palate, its rich mousse of raspberries and toasted almonds gives way to a caramelised red-apple finish. 36 months lees ageing.
"My favourite of the four wines is this terrific Blanc de Noirs. I like this style of wine from several other English wineries, too, but no one else makes a bottle of wine like this!" Matthew Jukes
The Rathfinny Estate
Located on a south-facing slope on the South Downs, the climate, chalky soil, and aspect make the perfect site for producing sparkling wine. Rathfinny lies within three miles of the English Channel, giving it a semi-continental maritime climate that provides protection from late frosts. Remarkably, it is protected from the prevailing south westerlies by a natural ridge that runs along the southern edge of the Estate. An exceptional sunshine record and moderate rainfall, combined with free-draining, chalky soil, are ideal for producing grapes of outstanding quality.
50 acres of vines were planted in 2012 with three principal grape varieties – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier with a small amount of Pinot Gris.
If you would like to secure a case or two of this delightful English sparkling wine, you can order online or call us on 0117 370 9930.
Delivery as ever is £6.99 per consignment for UK mainland addresses and FREE to Bristol postcodes for orders of six bottles or more. Alternatively collect from our Clifton shop as we are open as normal and would love to see you.
Richard, Aidan and all the team at DBM
Our Christmas Window is Complete
Sourced from recycled wine bottles and lovingly put together by the DBM team, we thought it rather ‘on brand’ and appropriate! You’ll see its’s also topped with a beautiful blue star, our small way to say thank you to all the incredible NHS staff in Bristol.
Now December is here it's starting to feel fantastically festive in Clifton Village. Our neighbouring shops are open and full of gifts, so why not help us celebrate and come up to Clifton for all your Christmas shopping. This year in particular, local businesses really need and appreciate your support.
In the heart of Clifton Village, you’ll find ‘Florence, The NHS Tree of Thanks’ - a majestic 50ft tree - who’s proving to be a real hit with local children and bringing out the big kid in us all.Treat yourself to a hot chocolate and explore the surrounding streets and you’ll see lots of delightful mini trees decorating the shop, cafes, and restaurants. Come and visit us this Christmas and savour all our lovely part of Bristol has to offer.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Richard, Aidan, Susan and all the team at DBM
Welcome To Our New Home
This year marked the much-anticipated move into our fantastic new shop on Princess Victoria Street. We have always loved being in Clifton, but now we are right in the heart of the Village and must say we are really enjoying having a high street presence for the first time.
The premises had already been trading as a wine shop for the past thirty years, but before we made it home, we were keen to put the DBM stamp on it. After much planning and extensive renovations, the shop has been transformed - it’s now beautifully light and airy - and we couldn’t be happier with the result.
And the space…
Whilst the shop on Kings Road was great in so many ways, we didn’t really have enough of an opportunity to spread out and display our wine as extensively as we would have liked. The extra footage is such a luxury. It has enabled us to stock a constantly changing range, including Bin-End deals and new vintages of old favourites. In future we will be hosting great tasting events and the shop floor is more than large enough to comfortably adhere to current social distancing requirements, without losing any of the wine shopping experience so many of our customers enjoy.
We have laid out the shop to consciously put customers at ease. The front features all the everyday wines and great offers, so you can grab a bottle for the evening easily. Further back, the layout is by region where you can explore a greater range and the treasures an area has to offer. We also have some super rare gems and special killer offers!
Our neighbours and the residents of Clifton have made us feel extremely welcome. In tough times such as these, community spirit has never been more important, and we hugely appreciate the friendship and support of our fellow local businesses and wonderful customers. Thank you everyone, we have been overwhelmed by the positive feedback we have received.
See you soon,
Richard, Aidan, Susan and all the team at DBM
Our Beautiful House Warming Gift
We wanted to mark the move into our new home with something distinctive and unique to us.
With the very generous support of Pol Roger Champagne, well-known Bristol illustrator Emily Holmes, was tasked to create a signature piece for the shop. Something that we could keep and enjoy every day and was rooted in Bristol. The result is this rather stunning vintage style Pol Roger picture, that you can find hanging in our entrance.
It's rather special don't you think? If you have not seen it yet, pop in and take a look. It already looks very much at home!
Thank you Emily.
17th April 2020
Country Life Feature
Take a peek in the 15th April edition of Country Life and you’ll find DBM Wines in ‘Town & Country Notebook’. In ‘Wine of the Week’ we feature with one of our current favourite bottles Famille JM Cazes, Domaine de L’Ostal, Estibals, Minervois, Languedoc, France 2016. This juicy, ripe Syrah-Carignan-Grenache-Mourvedre blend has subsequently proved to be so popular that we have temporarily sold out! But fear not, we can recommend an equally delicious alternative , St Chinian "Les Cerises", Domaine M & P Guiraud.
And don’t forget we offer a full wine delivery service, straight to your door. Our shop may be closed for the time being, but our office is open from Monday to Friday, 9.00am – 5.00pm and we are able to take orders online, by phone and email.
16th April 2020
Helping Bristol University Support Key Workers.
Ordinarily we are known as a Bristol Wine Merchant, however this week we were extremely proud to have the opportunity to diversify and help support our local community in these extraordinary times.
A team from University of Bristol’s School of Chemistry has been providing a vital role in producing much needed World Health Organisation (WHO) hand sanitisers for key workers across the city. Academics, researchers and technicians from the University have over the past ten days successfully sourced raw materials, secured the necessary certification and produced around 1000 litres of sanitiser.
We were asked if we could help with the distribution and did not hesitate to donate 50 brand-new, strong DBM boxes.
The first delivery of 600 pump dispensers was delivered to Bristol City Council last week and our boxes will be used to distribute the sanitiser to key workers such as the emergency services, postal workers, waste management operatives and transport staff.
Professor Gallagher of Bristol University said: “This has been a real team effort, with unstinting support from colleagues from across the University, the City Council and our external partners and suppliers.
“The demand for WHO-grade sanitiser, and the raw supplies needed to make it, has soared in recent weeks, and with absolute reason. It’s vital that our front-line workers are as protected as possible, so they can continue to carry out their crucial duties and keep our city running”.
Professor Tim Gallagher went on to confirm the team will continue to produce the free hand sanitiser for the city to help meet the rising demand and that their next target is to make a further 2,000 litres in the coming weeks.
Richard Davis of DBM wines said: ‘It goes without saying, we would be delighted to help again. Hopefully nobody will get confused, and we're not expecting any miss picks as this is definitely not for consumption. This hand sanitiser is 70% Proof!’