Black Chalk Paragon 2020

Black Chalk Paragon 2020 is a sparkling wine of real and rare beauty. This Blanc de Blancs fizz amply demonstrates that Hampshire is indeed a fine wine region, and that it is largely due the technical and artistic skills of Black Chalk’s Jacob Leadley and Zoë Driver.

I gave an overview of Black Chalk in this article and expounded that the house style is most sympathetic to the Turangawaewae of Hampshire. The Black Chalk Paragon 2020 is a Blanc de Blancs that is a scintillating refinement of the Black Chalk style.

2020, the COVID year, marked the completion of Black Chalk’s winery; it was also an excellent vintage. Having their own place to work, with a grape press that can handle small amounts, and differently sized storage containers, allowed each climat and each vine clone planted in them to be pressed, fermented and stored separately.

Not all of the fermentation vats used were the usual stainless steel, some of the base wines from the 2020 vintage were fermented in used oak barrels. Many of the oak fermented Chardonnays would end up in Black Chalk Paragon 2020.

So Jacob and Zoë created a blend of Chardonnay wines that were most sympathetic with each other, truly expressive of their range of chalky vineyards, and worthy of being at the zenith of Hampshire prestige cuvées.

How lofty is the peak of Hampshire sparkling wine? Palate set to analytical – go! Go!! GO!!

Black Chalk Paragon 2020

Paragon Blanc de Blancs 2020, Black Chalk

A fine nose of bready freshness and exquisite apple and lemon fruit. The fruit has a piercing depth to, it is crazily attractive.

This what Jacob and Zoë aim for in their wines. The growing season for grapes is so prolonged that the grapes accumulate a massive amount of flavour. This flavour, this quality of fruit, is so very Hampshire and it is what Black Chalk Paragon 2020 (and, indeed, all Black Chalk wines) delivers up your nose with enthusiasm, but no shortage of elegance or quality.

Lees ageing is only 27 months, enough to give some autolytic character but not so much it interferes with the coruscant expression of Hampshire fruit.

Black Chalk Paragon 2020 also has a creamy, chalky character and the oak I mentioned in the introduction makes a noticeable appearance as you sniff it. Distinct oakiness is unusual for a Black Chalk wine.

However, this is not a ‘splinters sticking in sinuses’-level of oakiness that one gets in Krug or some Gratien wines. The oak is here in a supporting role. It makes the intense fruit seem a little softer and more elegant, it enhances the creaminess of the chalk and just adds a bit more complexity.

Then there is the fruit… Oh, the fruit! Such finesse and intricate citrus and malic fruit, but the intensity is fabulous. It charges the palate with energy and fills your mouth with utterly delicious flavours that just last and last. I will still be tasting this after dinner.

The oak character in Black Chalk Paragon 2020 and the electric acidity support this uproarious fruit as it stimulates my palate and probes every crevice in order to deliver maximum excitement and god-damn love!

Black Chalk Paragon 2020 has a beautifully soft mousse, giving a lovely sensation combined with the lowish dosage (for English fizz, just under 6g/l). It has a chalky grip on the finish that is wonderfully engaging.

All this fruit, oak, acidity and minerality deliver an exhilaratingly emotional delight to this lover of very fine things; I’m covered in goosebumps and my pulse is racing.

You could age this for 5-or-so years, but you would be making a mistake. The whole point of Black Chalk wines, their whole expression of Hampshire Turangawaewae, is about the quality of the fruit. You do not want to lose any of it. Fine wines do not need to age to be brilliant; this light burns so brilliantly that it cannot fulgurate forever.

When we visited Black Chalk, Jacob said something that made my heart warm, “There is a lot of art to winemaking”. Black Chalk Paragon 2020 shows not only the screaming zenith the best Hampshire fruit can attain, but also that importance of how that fruit must be guided to show at its best; that takes the technically skilled, but also the creative passion of (in this case two) artists.

Buy from the Black Chalk website. For its quality, this is a bargain of a sparkler.


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