Elitistreview’s 15th anniversary celebration

Today marks the fifteenth anniversary of Elitistreview! What a great milestone! How I have managed to keep it up I will never know, especially considering how rubbish some of the posts in the first few years were…

Things did improve during Elitistreview’s middle age. There are some absolutely hilarious posts in there. My egomania allows me to browse Elitistreview from time to time and laugh my socks off at the stuff I have written.

I have some duties to perform. Firstly, thanks must go to The Editor’s tireless work in cutting out all the funniest bits from Elitistreview. Consequently, he has stopped me from being subjected to beatings, disinheritance, lynching, stabbing and many other cruel, unusual and completely unjustified punishments. He has also improved each post immeasurably.

I also owe the a huge debt of gratitude to the many people who have supported Elitistreview over the years. From paying hosting fees to paying for surgery, from delivering wines for review to delivering me to distant psychiatric wards, so many people have helped in so many ways! Thank you, one and all!!

Finally, I must thank you all, the wonderful people who read Elitistreview. I am not entirely sure why you all do read Elitistreview, but there must be something reasonably attractive about my organ as a few hundred people visit on an average day. WOW! I am amazingly flattered! Thank you!

Before we move onto today’s piece of enlightenment about a peculiar and obscure wine that few of you are likely to encounter, I have some news about the broader Team Elitistreview.

Kisu joined Elitistreview in 2006 and left earlier this year to join the Choir Invisible. Fudge has only been subjected to The Editor and myself for a year, so is still an enthusiastic team member. Joining us two short days ago is the eight week old kitten Hector, pictured below checking an incoming Champagne order. I am sure you will all wish him well in his role of supporting the more frequently paralytic team member.

Hector checking a Champagne order in for the Elitistreview cellar

To celebrate Elitistreview’s anniversary, and the arrival of Hector, fizz seems like a good choice. Hector is a black and white kitten so I have picked out a Blanc des Noirs (white from black) sparkling wine, from the year of Elitistreview’s tenth anniversary and, like every member of Team Elitistreview, the fizz is unapologetically English.

Rathfinny, the producer of today’s wine, have 91 hectares, predominantly planted with the three sparkling grape varietals, on the rolling hills of the South Downs in Sussex. They own more land surrounding these initial plantings and have bold plans to expand their area under vine.

Given the source of the money to pay for this there is a somewhat sniffy view of Rathfinny in the English wine scene – it is just a playground for rich City types. Some people think Rathfinny’s owners are not driven by a pure, internal hunger to create great English sparklers at the expense of all other endeavours. This is apparently outré.

Such a view is, of course, total bollocks. The nascent English sparkling wine landscape needs all the help it can get to grow and become recognised as a truly fine style of wine. There is big investment here, not only in land acquisition and plantings, but also training locals to tend vines and harvest grapes. Rathfinny are creating jobs in and ploughing money into their local area.

Rathfinny also have a smart tasting room and restaurant on site. The local craftspeople trained by Rathfinny can take their expertise beyond the broad swathe of the South Downs estate. Ventures like this only help the English wine vista.

The Sussex hills owned by Rathfinny share a character with other fine sparkling regions – such as Hampshire – in that they are chalk based. The commonly held view is that chalk favours Pinot varietals, this is why I first chose to try one of their Blanc des Noirs (ie. it is only made from the red grapes Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, using 65% and 35% respectively of each).

Rathfinny perform the initial fermentation in stainless steel – no barrels are used. There is 100% malolactic fermentation of the wines. Selectively cultured bacteria are used to carry this out with the aim of lowering acidity without introducing any of the dairy flavours beloved by loathsome cheap Californian Chardonnay producers and the filthy philistines who swill them.

The developing fizz spends 36 months on its lees – a perfectly decent, but not remarkable, time. After this the wines are disgorged and a dosage of 4 grams of sugar per litre of wine used. This is lower than almost all English fizz. Let us hope all these factors result in a balanced, harmonious, quality Blanc des Noirs.

So, cheers to The Editor! Cheers to my many noble supporters! Cheers to you wonderful readers! Cheers to Hector and Fudge! Now, finally, let us get drinking!

Elitistreview celebrates 15 years with Rathfinney Blanc des Noirs 2015Blanc des Noirs Sussex sparkling wine 2015, Rathfinny

This nose is a tiny bit more dense than the usual light, pretty style of English sparkling wine. Is this because it is a Blanc des Noirs or because it is striving for ‘Sussex PDO’? Obviously, the former; I am fucked if I can tell what makes this as ‘Sussex’ as opposed to, say, Hampshire – just from a first sniff anyway.

There is a lot of fruit on the nose. Strawberries and raspberries, mainly, but apple and pear as well. Pronounced apple and pear. Pear drops? There is a possibility that these characteristics are close, but I think it just skirts around excess temperature control of the fermentation. It is reasonably attractive.

I say ‘reasonably’ because there is another aroma flirting with my nose. I wish it were not flirting, because it is not really that nice. It is just a hint, a shade, a suggestion, but there is something a little dirty here. Rot, perhaps? Hmmm… Could the Pinot Meunier component have aged overly quickly? I have experienced this in some English sparkling wines.

It is difficult to put my finger on the exact source of this slight aroma. My money would be that the fruit was not entirely clean before it hit the winery. But it is just a hint, this nose is largely nice. So I will have a taste.

Jesus shit, this is horrible! The mousse is as coarse as a squaddie’s face after a contretemps with Ben Stokes. It is so horribly rough it also hurts one’s mouth just as much. Tizer would seem more refined and elegant than this hyper-bubbly, belch-inducer. Good god, what have I done to deserve my good money being exchanged for this noisome horror?

Then there is the taste. It is absolutely disgusting, it tastes of a few slices of supermarket bread that have been left on a radiator for two weeks then had the fungal growths flattened by a good buttering with mud. It is shitting repulsive.

Now, I will be nice and say that somewhere in this abominable palate soil-cycle of foulness there is a hint of nice red fruit. That is not even a diversion from the rainy-day over-ripe fruit-pickers’ shoe-scrapings that constitute most of the rest of that flavours of this feculent construction.

The words ‘most’ and ‘construction’ in that last sentence because of the little bit of other fruit flavour present on this wine. The apple and pear that seemed fine on the nose, definitely do not seem so on the palate. They are confected. This must have been fermented at such a low temperature the malefic rot in with the rest of the juice must have tried to get out and go somewhere warmer. No, tasting this was nigh-unremitting punishment.

Alas, it had prodigious length.

That was horrible. Sorry about that, everyone. I must celebrate Elitistreview’s 15th anniversary with something decent, so I promise I will present enlightenment about a better beverage within… erm… five hours!