A sparkling wine from the Raimes family in Hampshire, nothing to do with Reims at all! The first time The Editor and I tried this, just after it was released a year ago, we had it alongside a Gratien 2005 vintage Champagne. The Raimes 2015 Blanc des Noirs was clearly the superior wine, effortlessly outclassing the Gratien – and we normally love Gratien; it is just that very nice things are even nicer than nice things!
This is a small production of a single vineyard planted only with red varieties, lovingly tended by the Raimes family and vinified at Hattingley Valley. Every time it has passed my lips there has been a big smile upon them.
To the note!
Blanc des Noirs South Downs Sparkling Wine 2015, Raimes
This has the nose of a very refined and elegant Hampshire sparkler – it is delicately scented with red berries with attractive floral hints and is extremely classy, purring with come hither-allure. It seems a tiny bit more Champagne-y than when I first tasted it, but only a hint more toasty and brioche-y, and that is not necessarily a criticism.
The alcohol level is one more commonly associated with Champagne, 12.5%, rather than the lower levels usually found in Hampshire fizz, but that is NOT a criticism of the wine either. The vineyard is a little sun-trap and it was very warm in Hampshire in 2015, so it is allowed to be a hint riper – it is good to show vintage character.
Basically, what I am saying is that the nose is as beautiful as a Blanc des Noirs Hampshire wine can be, only more so than most, with a little bit more density and body to it, and a shade more toasty, Digestive biscuit character than one might expect. What it definitely is, is perfectly balanced, very fine and highly attractive.
Two thing immediately grab the attention of my palate. The first is the gloriously fine mousse. Tiny bubbles massage every corner of my mouth as I squelch it around. After I swallow the fizz leaves behind minute, scintillating pin-pricks that seem to fizz happily long after the Raimes Blanc des Noirs has been swallowed.
The second is an intense lemon flavour. Yes, there are red fruit flavours from the red grapes, but this powerful citrus character seems unusually pronounced to me, even for a Hampshire wine. It makes for a delicious palate, that is for sure!
The finish has a powerful limestone grip to it, something all the best Hampshire wines have. With this wine the limestone bite, the lemon fruit and the scintillating mousse seem to give it more of a sense of a unique, special place than all but the best coteaux de Hampshire wines have. All of these features along with the red berry fruit, toss, turn and collide in a kaleidoscope of pure delight as you swallow leaving the impression you have experienced something really special.
This is a really special Hampshire wine, of unique flavour, poise and balance, and it truly is a delight to drink. I do not think there is any need to rush drinking any bottles you have as I feel it has the capability to age for a few more years at least (if you have a good cellar). Grab all you can whilst stock remains then move onto drinking the next vintage with the excitement drinking the 2015 should have imbued you with.
You can buy this direct from the Raimes family on their website. Get it whilst you can! Their Classic Cuvee is scrumptious too!