Stanlake Park Wine Estate - 22 August 2019
Stanlake Park Wine Estate is located just a short stroll from Twyford station in Berkshire. I had the pleasure of visiting on a gloriously sunny day on Thursday, August 22nd. The estate is one of England’s older vineyards having been established in 1979 and as such is proud to be celebrating its 40th anniversary this year!
Previously known as Thames Valley Vineyard, it was home to the Leighton family from 1952 to 2005. When Jon Leighton returned from living in Australia, he realised the estate’s potential for grape growing and planted around 500 vines of 30 different grape varieties.
Since 2005, the estate has been owned and developed further by private investors, who re-launched it as Stanlake Park Wine Estate. The area under vine has since increased to more than 15 acres and 10,000 vines, with a large number of Germanic varietals including the following;
Bacchus, Schönburger, Madeleine Angevine, Seyval Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Ortega, Dornfelder, Siegerrebe, Optima and Reichensteiner.
In addition, the three traditional “Champagne” varietals of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay are also grown on the estate - wow!
Vineyard operations and management are now undertaken by husband and wife team, Nico Centonze and Natalia Pezzone, who joined the team last Winter. Since their arrival, Nico and Natalia have uprooted some of the very old vines and are now working with around 20 different varietals covering about 10 acres.
The vineyard utilises several different trellising systems including some that are unique to the estate; the Stanlake Bow and the Stanlake Ballerina - similar to the Smart-Dyson Ballerina system. These methods are ideal for our long cool growing season and train the vines on higher wires to avoid ground frost. Their spacing also makes best use of the heat and sunlight which helps prevent mildew.
The estate produces its own white, rosé, red and traditional method sparkling wines. In addition, Stanlake Park provides contract winemaking services for some of the smaller English vineyards, including Danebury Vineyards in Hampshire and Oaken Grove Vineyard in Berkshire. Some wineries will simply use the estate’s disgorging facilities for their sparkling wines.
Winemaking on the estate takes place in the listed 17th century barn which houses the largest winery in Berkshire; capable of handling more than 200 tons of fruit in a season. The estate produces 20,000 bottles per year from its own vines and around 75,000 bottles per year for contracted wineries. Wines are fermented in thick stainless-steel fermentation tanks from the Mosel in Germany that were made in 1991 and are great for temperature control. The disgorging line was one of the first in England and at the time of my visit, Nico was disgorging the 2010 Stanlake Brut. The bottling line is huge, and Natalia considers it to be on a similar scale to Ridgeview in East Sussex, a much larger estate which produces more than a quarter of a million of bottles a year.
The estate has a small barrel room where they age one of their white wines and both reds. Only French oak is used; new oak for the white King's Fumé - a blend of Chardonnay and Ortega (which is currently sold out) and a combination of new and used oak to soften and round out the tannins of the reds.
Nico and Natalia:
Nico Centonze is the winemaker and has been around vineyards all of his life. He grew up in Puglia, in Southern Italy, where he helped his family manage their 15-acre family vineyard. Having attained a BSc and MSc in Viticulture and Oenology from the Universities of Florence in Tuscany and Turin in Piemonte, he began his career in La Rioja, Argentina. He returned to Italy as Assistant Winemaker, before he became Head Winemaker at a boutique winery in Eastern Europe. He also undertook a harvest with Nyetimber in 2013.
Natalia Pezzone is responsible for Sales and Marketing. She was born in Argentina and moved to Italy over 10 years ago. Having originally studied and worked as a Veterinarian Pathologist, wine was not in her background, but she has recently attained WSET Levels 2 and 3, and is currently halfway through her Level 4 Diploma. Her previous wine-related roles include Wine Educator, communicator and tasting host, and she has a background in web marketing, social media and design. One of her key projects for 2020 is to re-design the labels for the winery to best showcase individual wines.
Publicity, Events, and Launches:
Anyone familiar with the ITV crime drama “Midsomer Murders” may well have seen the vineyard and manor house previously. The estate appeared as the “Midsomer Vinae” winery in “A Vintage Murder”, the 4th episode of Series 17, originally aired in February 2015. If you take a wine tour, you will see many of the featured filming locations.
The cellar shop and wine garden at Stanlake Park are open from Wednesday to Sunday from 12pm - 5pm. Regular tours are available along with monthly Italian Food and English Wine evenings where Nico does the cooking. The estate is also frequently used for weddings and private functions.
To commemorate the estate’s 40th anniversary, Nico has launched 3 wines; the white Bacchus 2018, a beautiful Pinot Noir Rosé and a new red, the Grand Reserve, which he launched just last month.
Sparkling wines (all traditional method)
A non-vintage sparkler made with wines from the 2014 and 2015 vintages. Predominantly Seyval Blanc, with a little Pinot Noir and Reichensteiner, this spends around 12 months on the lees. Dry and refreshing, with an element of sweetness from the ripe fruit. Perfect as an aperitif, simple and easy drinking, with Prosecco nuances, but unlike Prosecco is made by the traditional method.
Predominantly Chardonnay, with a touch of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, this big bold sparkling wine has yeasty and toasty notes, and is much more creamy and fuller-bodied than Heritage Brut. Having spent around 4 years on the lees, it has a rich rounded mouthfeel and very long finish. Absolutely stunning!
Stanlake Brut 2010
A very elegant sparkling wine with hints of strawberries and red fruits on the nose. This is a blend of predominantly Pinot Noir with a little Chardonnay which has spent around 5 years on the lees. Not as rich as Ascot Brut, the Pinot Noir provides more structure and red fruit. Definitely more masculine in style, with just a hint of savoury on the finish.
A beautiful salmon pink colour, this is dry, with a very delicate mousse and lashings of strawberries and cream on the palate. 100% Pinot Noir and 2 years on the lees provides a beautiful structure and very long finish.
English Rosé 2014
A blend of two black grapes; Dornfelder and Rondo, this dry, yet fruity rosé has fresh English strawberries on the nose and a bowlful of fresh red berries on the palate. With a few years bottle age, this wine has also developed some tertiary characteristics which give it extra depth and flavour. A bargain at £7.99 - perfect for a Summer’s day!
Pinot Noir Rosé 2018
100% Pinot Noir, this is one of Nico’s creations, who specialises in rosés. It has high acidity, fresh raspberries, passion fruit, strawberries, banana and mango. Very tropical indeed; don’t let that put you off - it’s exceptional!
Named after the Henley Regatta and originally crafted as a house wine for the restaurant trade, this is a blend of Ortega, Bacchus and Schönburger. Green and herbaceous on the nose, with high acidity and white floral notes, it is light, simple in nature and a real crowd-pleaser.
100% Bacchus; light, fresh and youthful with notes of peach, grapefruit and lime on both the nose and palate. Very refreshing.
40th Anniversary Bacchus 2018
Also 100% Bacchus and one of Nico’s creations for the estate’s 40th anniversary, this has a greenish tinge on the rim and is paler in colour than Bacchus 2017. It has the usual high acidity, aromas of flint and wet stones, and the palate is richer, with ripe white peach, lime and mango. It is also fuller-bodied and has a longer finish than the 2017.
100% Madeleine Angevine and, as such, is very floral and fruity. Acidity appears less evident than in the Bacchus wines, but still relatively high.
Hinton Grove 2014
With a medium gold hue, this off-dry white is the darkest in colour and a blend of Gewürztraminer, Madeleine Angevine and Schönburger. Aromatic, with pronounced aromas of spice, ripe citrus and a hint of cheese. On the palate, spice notes continue, whilst white floral notes are evident from the Madeleine Angevine.
The Reserve 2014
A blend of Dornfelder and Rondo aged for 6 months in used French oak. Aromatic, with a deep plummy nose, this seems almost Italian in style, however this one actually pre-dates Nico’s arrival. With red and black fruit, medium/high acidity and a medium finish, you could even serve this chilled on a warm summer’s day.
Grand Reserve NV
The latest offering from Nico, this elegant red is a blend of the 2015, 2016 and 2017 vintages of Dornfelder, Regent and Rondo. Having spent around 2 years in new and used French oak, this has pronounced dark cherry aromas, with hints of spice, dates, figs and prunes. It is exceptionally smooth, has velvety tannins and lashings of red and black fruit. Acidity, fruit and tannin are all in balance and it has a long luscious finish. Nico calls this his English red with an Italian accent! It’s fantastic!
In closing, I would like to thank Natalia and Nico for their exceptional hospitality at the time of my visit. It was great to talk to them and learn more about their plans for the estate. It was lovely to be able to visit the estate, winery, and gardens on such a beautiful day!
In terms of the wines, I was extremely impressed with the Ascot Brut sparkling wine, and with Nico’s latest creations; the white Bacchus 2018, the Pinot Noir Rosé 2018 and the red Grand Reserve. I wish the whole team every success with the upcoming harvest and with their future plans.
If you get a chance to visit, please do. You could not hope for a more friendly and welcoming wine family!
Copyright of suerayuncorked.com - August 2019
Waltham Road, Twyford, Berkshire RG10 0BN