Steven Spurrier of Bride Valley Vineyard

11th November 2016

glass of carneros

The first time I saw Steven Spurrier was at the Swiss Ambassador’s stylish residence, proposing a toast for Circle of Wine Writers Christmas Party in December 2013 when I was a Diploma student. I have often seen him at Tasting Events since then but I always hesitated to talk to him as he was somehow like a legend in a book.

Steven Spurrier, as you may know, organized the Paris Tasting of 1976, which was the fateful blind tasting of unknown California and top French wines. This shocking result totally evolved the wine industry and promoted the expansion of wine production in the new world.

Right before returning to Japan, I got a chance to talk to him and promised to meet him again in Tokyo. In this 40th anniversary year, the Academie du Vin Tokyo invited Steven and Eduardo Chadwick to celebrate of the 1976 Paris Tasting and the 2004 Berlin tasting.

The long-awaited event “Look Back in Wonder” was held on the 2 of September. All wines were excellent and many Japanese wine lovers and experts there enjoyed the tasting and learning the story behind the historical events from Steven himself. Seña 2000, Viñedo Chadwick 2000 and Don Maximiano Founder’s Reserve 1984 were ageing beautifully with remaining the shine of primary fruits. However, the bottle which impressed me the most because of its uniqueness was “2013 Bride Valley, Blanc de Blancs”

The Bride Valley Vineyard is Steven’s new challenge. He had no intention of producing sparkling wine when his wife, Bella, bought the farm in 1987, even Michel Bettane, who was a lecturer at his Academie du Vin, examined erroneously a block of chalk from their farm as one from Champagne. These 20 years, the wine industry has been evolving drastically, in England as well. The promising sign of a new wave of English Sparkling wine in the early 2000s determined Steven to embark on a new adventure of a wine producer. With the advice and encouragement of the Boisset family, in 2009, he started planting vines in only 10ha southeast, south and southwest facing slopes out of their huge farmyard in South Dorset, which was analyzed as a perfect terroir for the classic Champagne varieties. In October 2011, the first vintage was harvested in the month of Steven’s 70th birthday. The crop made the first 490 bottles of Bride Valley sparkling wine, which were the Cuvee Reserve 2011 and it is now called Brut Reserve.

They have no problem with winemaking as the award winning wine maker, Ian Edwards, vinifies expertly from start to finish at Furleigh Estate under half an hour from Bride Valley Vineyards. Steven intervenes at the time of blending and for the “dosage” for disgorgement and that is all. However, they have had a big problem producing enough wine, except the plentiful vintage in 2014. “Our proper crop should be 30,000 bottles from 42,000 vines if not more!!” said Steven.

The 2013 vintage was much better than 2012, but still only yielded just over 200 cases. The Japanese importer is Academie du Vin, established in 1987 as the first wine school in Japan and eventually became the biggest wine school in the country, also deals with wine sales. They could receive only 10 cases of Blanc de Blancs and 5 cases of Rose Bella. Therefore, they only use Steven’s wine for special occasions such as “Look Back in Wonder” at the moment.

Bride Valley Vineyard Blanc de Blancs 2013 expressed Steven’s philosophy very clearly. “My philosophy is that the finished wine should represent where it comes from and since we are a cool climate vineyard with a chalky soil, this style is light, clear, crisp and elegant, very “vertical”.  It is for drinking as an aperitif, not with food”. It was beautifully pure and had a very tight steely structure with the fresh aromas of lemon and green apple along with mineral. Once you taste it, you will not forget their bright, lively acidity and long lasting elegant finish.

As Steven confessed, it is very difficult to secure a constant yield every vintage in South England from being marginal climate and where the weather is quite unstable and has lots of rain leading to rot and vine disease. However, their chalky soil the same as Champagne and global warming is definitely an advantage to produce premium sparkling wine. Their vines are young and their history has just started. The future of English sparkling wine is definitely promising.

I hope that substantial bottles of the very plentiful 2014vintage will be exported to Japan. Japanese wine lovers who love to look for a special bottle that tells a story will definitely appreciate Bride Valley sparkling wine.

What is your favorite food pairing with any of your sparkling wine? “As I said, Bride Valley is more an apéritif wine.  The Rose Bella could possibly be matched with fresh fruit desserts, but certainly not with chocolate.”

Written by Atsuko Furuya

Glass of Bubbly

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