BCCJ Members Taste Award-Winning English Wine

May 19, 2017


English Wine has come a long way in the last 20 years. Vineyards in southern England are producing award winning wines, and just last year two English sparkling wines beat their neighbours from Champagne in a blind tasting by an elite group of Parisian experts.

On 18th May 2017, BCCJ members and guests gathered at the Life Sciene Hub in Nihonbashi for the unique chance to taste wines from two renowned English winemakers, Bolney and Digby, and to sample award-winning sparkling wine not yet available to buy in Japan. 

Red Johnson, founder of the British Bottle Company, welcomed BCCJ guests and opened the event by explaining that the British drinks industry has recently undergone a revolution in status, entrepreneurialism and quality; with producers of craft beer, English wine and artisanal spirits transforming the reputation as manufacturers of high-quality, delicious drinks.

"The British Bottle Company is the only export company to specifically promote and distribute UK produced, quality alcoholic drinks to the global market," said Johnson, "and Japan is a market we take very seriously."

The speaker told guests, "the British Bottle Company, founded in 2014, has already developed a reputation as a market pioneer, forging strong relationships with suppliers and distributors worldwide, including Japan."

"Our mission is to match the very best British drinks with the right importers and consumers around the world, delivering an unrivalled service to quality British drinks brands."

Next, Sam Linter, winemaker and M.D., daughter of the founders of the Bolney Estate, talked about the winemaking history of her family vineyards and their thriving business run by an experienced team of three generations.

Blessed with a perfect microclimate and ideal wine-growing soils made up of sandy-loam, siltstone and clay over sandstone bedrock, Linter emphasised her pride in the quality of their hand picked grapes. "England’s increasingly warm climate and its chalk soils are ideal for producing bubbly; the production of English wine has seen record vintages in the last two years, seeing an average of around five million bottles per year. This is expected to grow to 10 million bottles by 2020."

"Bolney has forged a reputation for impeccable quality, not just in sparkling wines but still wines, too, with Pinot Noir proving a particular strength," she added. This quality has been recognised with awards nationally and internationally.

The speaker also highlighted the open collaboration between English winemakers and the efforts made to share information and tips in order to ensure the continued high quality and good reputation of English wine.

Linter spoke in detail about Bolney Estate's production techniques and introduced three sparkling wines for BCCJ members and guests to taste, at the same time answering the many questions from the audience:

  • Blanc de Blancs 2010
    100% Chardonnay
    Region – England, Sussex
    Age length – 24-36 months
    Traditional method quality sparkling with yellow fruit character, floral notes, and  wonderful yeasty undertones. Smooth texture with a fine mousse and a lovely length.
  • Bolney Bubbly NV
    70% Müller-Thurgau,
    20% Reichensteiner,
    10% Chardonnay
    Region – England, Sussex
    Age length – 18 months
    Delightful floral and brioche notes combine with zesty citrus fruit, honeysuckle and elderflower, finishing with just a hint of sweetness. Great aperitif, pair also with fish – especially oily fish – fishes such as seared tuna, salmon en croute & smoked mackerel pâté.
  • KEW Sparkling Rosé
    100% Pinot Noir
    Region – England, Sussex
    Age length – 12-18 months
    Traditional method sparkling rosé wine, made from Pinot Noir grapes. A very elegant sparkling wine with red berry fruits, brioche notes and smooth lingering finish. Aged on lees for a minimum of 12 months before disgorgement.

Trevor Clough, Co-Founder and CEO of Digby Fine English, then spoke about about the focus of his company on the production and marketing of world-class sparkling wine made using English-grown Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes.

"Digby is a blending house and achieves its house style by blending together parcels of fruit from its long-term vineyard partners in south east England, typically Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and Dorset chalk-rich heartland."

"The diversity of sites helps achieve the richness of flavour and texture, helped considerably by our meticulous standards in the vineyards and cellar. As a luxury brand, we draw our inspiration from English history, inventiveness and design."

Clough first showed the audience how best to open a bottle of bubbly, and then introduced three sparkling wines for guests to taste:

  • Vintage Reserve Brut 2009
    Wine Information:
    65% Chardonnay, 18% Pinot Noir,
    17% Pinot Meunier
    Region – England
    Age length – 60 months
    An intriguing character, elegant with a certain raciness. Refined bubbles deliver a crisp, refreshing peach and apple character with a creamy biscuit finish. This is ready to enjoy now but will reward careful cellaring. Perfect with smoked salmon or fine cheeses. This wine was declared the #1 English sparkling wine by the world's most respected Champagne critic, Tom Stevenson, in his Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships 2014.
  • Non-Vintage Brut
    Wine Information:
    40% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay,
    25% Pinot Meunier
    Region – England
    Age length – 24 months
    The new entry level wine in the Digby portfolio, Brut NV is a highly sophisticated example  of the Digby house style. It brings together the best characteristics of English sparkling wine: freshness, acidity and finesse, with the richness that has become the Digby hallmark.

  • Leander Pink NV
    Wine Information:
    50% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay,
    15% Pinot Meunier
    Region – England
    Age length – 24 months
    Refined yet exuberant, this wine’s delicate bubbles carry the essence of an English summer: fresh roses and strawberries. Extra time on lees gives delicious toasty characters. Ideal for pre-dinner drinks or served with afternoon tea.

A delicious selection of gourmet British finger food freshly prepared by Swan & Lion British Deli and Bakery was served to accompany participants on their wine-tasting journey.

After the wine tasting and Q&A, guests had the opportunity to speak to the winemakers and network with other members. The wines were praised highly by all participants and it was agreed that English winemakers, including Bolney and Digby, have successfully slayed the myth that English wine cannot compete with the best in the world, and that the future for English sparkling wine in Japan is bright.

To find out about the availability of Bolney and Digby wines near your location in Japan, please call the Mottox customer support number on 0120-344101.

Photos of the event can be viewed on and downloaded from BCCJ Flickr.

Our Nihonbashi venue for this event is kindly sponsored by BCCJ Corporate Member Mitsui Fudosan and the Life Science Innovation Network Japan (www.link-j.org).

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