Hampshire vineyards: Exton Park
In this new series, we head for the cellar door of the county’s fabulous wineries, starting at Exton Park, a proper sparkler in the beautiful Meon Valley
On the slopes of the wide rolling chalklands at the heart of Hampshire, Exton Park is a sparkling gem in the Meon Valley countryside.
A single vineyard estate, it spans a pretty vast 60 acres. Lime Wood, Chewton Glen, The Vineyard at Stockcross, The Hand & Flower and The Greyhound on the Test are just a few of the top-notch dining rooms featuring Exton Park’s sparking new Reserve Blend English wines on their wine lists. So of course, we had to check them out too.
Look out – Muddy’s going wine tasting. And we’ve got grape expectations…
Good ‘terroir’ is essential to a top drop. Here, it precisely mirrors what you’ll find at the famous Champagne vineyards just eighty miles away across the Channel. And with a similar cool, northerly climate, too.
Growing on Exton Park’s staggering 120,000 vines are the three main grape varieties on which Champagne is based – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The vineyard is so big, that its nine plots each have their own microclimate, altitude and aspect. To preserve their distinctive flavours and aromas, harvesting and vinification are carried out separately.
Pretty unusually, Exton Park Wine Director Corinne Seely creates each year’s wines from a library of reserve wines dating back to 2011. To guarantee consistency of taste year-on-year no matter what the weather fluctuations, she adds just 20% of the latest harvest to each bottle.
Don’t compare them to Continental cousins like Champagne or Prosecco. English sparkling wines have their own distinctive identities. And that’s certainly the case with Exton Park’s Reserve Blends.
Already scoring highly with the critics, Exton Park RB23 Rosé blends Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. On taste, I noted fine bubbles and notes of soft red fruits, especially strawberry, with a rich aftertaste. Bottoms up!
Next up from the three-bottle Discovery Case was the RB28 Blanc de Noirs, made from 100% Pinot Noir. Light, dry and refreshing, it was fruity on the nose with crisp, apple-y acidity followed by a softer aftertaste.
The final wine I tried was RB32 Brut, a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Another light, fragrant blend with standout ripe apple and lemon citrus notes, I had a sudden revelation that it would be absolutely spot on paired with some delicious Hampshire smoked trout (top chefs take note).
All the Exton Park Reserve Wines are available online. Coming this Summer 2021, Exton Park will open the doors of Exton Hall to members of its new wine club, The Vault. It will also serve as a pretty fabulous event space, looking out over those oh-so-stunning rolling vineyard views…