Doug Decants ~ Walgate Wines, Rye, East Sussex

Walgate Wines (a.k.a. Ben Walgate) are committed to producing some of the finest wines in England. Ben is making good on this ambitious pledge. A slow and respectful winemaking process which marries both ancient and modern practices. Wines of place and integrity. From thoughtful and respectful farming, grapes are sourced from a selection of the very best growers in the southeast of England. A focused, quality orientated selection of red, white, and rosé wines in addition to a small and considered amount of traditional method sparkling. With a gentle hand on the tiller, slowly and patiently the wines evolve and settle until they reach the optimum condition for bottling and beyond that, will sit in the cellar until they are ready to be released.

It is fair to say that they represent an evolution of five years of work and research, the development of a particular style. If I had to characterise them, I would describe them as “sappy and snappy.”

Ben moved from Tillingham to his new premises in Rye in April 2023 – a large warehouse doubling (trebling) as winery, cellar and with a bar area to sit with nibbles and drinks as well as outside space with more seating and space for guest food trucks. He brought his stock with him (mainly the 2022 vintage) and proceeded to purchase winemaking and storage equipment. He has just released his first five wines; a further four are already in bottle and will see the light of day later in the year. In the 2023 vintage, Ben says he will focus on making just five different wines.

The presentation is different- simple creamy-white labels – embossed on certain cuvees – and bottle tops hand-dipped in different hues of wax to give a point of difference. The wines reflect this – focus and purity are the watchwords.  It is fair to say that they represent an evolution of five years of work and research, the development of a particular style. If I had to characterise them, I would describe them as “sappy and snappy.”The RosĂ© is a saignĂ©e of Pinot Meunier soured from regeneratively farmed vineyards at Tillingham. Whole bunches are bled off the press after 22 hours and the resulting wine is aged in German oak fuder. Outstanding rosĂ© with primary notes of orange and cherry-skin leading into a surprisingly savoury palate with stone fruit character. A real rosĂ© that trades on texture and length.

For his reds, Ben practices what is sometimes known as the millefeuille technique: layering of whole bunches and whole berries with buckets of free run juice on top and some carbon dioxide to create a gentle semi-carbo environment. This is an infusive technique – no punchdowns or pumpovers. The wine is pressed after three weeks or so and then is returned to concrete or wooden barrels accordingly.

The Pinot Meunier (supplemented by 20% Pinot Noir) is a delight. It’s not an aromatic grape in itself, but this example exhibits some lovely wild strawberry fruit with an additional touch of spice (clove) and pepper. Although light in body, the palate has plenty of grip and drive.

There are two Pinot Noirs in the range. The one we currently have is the Pinot Noir Reserve. Ben chooses his three favourite barrels (the others will be the straight Pinot), made from a mixture of Pinot Noir grapes grown in Crouch Valley in Essex and Shotley in Sussex.  Another red that manages to be light yet sinewy with chewy red cherry-skins and pippy crunch. Al dente red at its best. This one will age.The other two reds will be worth waiting for. The straight Pinot Noir is silkier and softer in style and less oak imprint. Delicious. And the Cuvee 909 deserves a decants blog in itself. This is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gamay and Pinot Meunier, a homage to the Clos des Vignes du Maynes 910 and more than a chip off the old block! A weightless wine in the best sense.Finally, one fizz and one white for now. The former is a Blanc de Noirs (vintage 2019) 50/50 Pinots Noir & Meunier, pressed to two 4th fill oak barrels where they were fermented with wild yeast and aged on lees for ten months. After thirty months on lees, the wine was disgorged and dosage was added. It is quite golden with nice toasty–nutty oak notes to round out the flavours of golden apples. Nicely integrated with none of the overly autolytic notes or green acids or excessive fizziness that one sometimes encounters on English sparkling wines.CuvĂ©e M is made from the Germanic varieties from Tillingham, in this case 50% MĂŒller-Thurgau, 20% Ortega, 12% Siegerebe, 10% Schönburger & 8% Huxelrebe. After a short cold maceration, the grapes are whole bunch pressed and fermented largely in 500-litre Austrian oak barrels. Aromas of wildflowers, elderflower, meadowsweet, and honeysuckle present, with a suggestion of ripe greengages and plump fig. The palate is light and crisp with a dry finish. Good texture.

2019 Blanc de Noirs

2022 Cuvee M

2022 Rosé (Saignée of Pinot Meunier)

2022 Pinot Meunier

2022 Pinot Noir Reserve


Interested in finding out more about the wines of Ben Walgate? Contact us directly: | | 01483 538820

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