Bored of Bacchus? Wake up to the Ortegasm

Chris Losh

Chris Losh

22 March 2018

Adrian Pike (right) with viticulturalist Marcus Goodwin
Adrian Pike (right) with viticulturalist Marcus Goodwin

Have England’s winemakers gone all boring and missionary position when it comes to still white wine? Westwell’s managing director Adrian Pike thinks so.

‘Where people used to be looking at Bacchus and Ortega [grapes] for still wines, they seem to be just going down the Bacchus route now,’ he told Imbibe. ‘But I think Ortega has more potential than Bacchus. It’s got more character and flavour.

‘Bacchus makes a simple, straight wine – elderflower and grassy – which I know people are after. But I think Ortega is rounder and fuller.’

At its vineyard in Kent, Westwell is rapidly becoming a specialist in the grape, which makes up about 40% of total production (the remainder is sparkling wine), although there are plans to grow it further. The winemaker current has three different versions of it: tank-fermented, oak-aged and skin-contact plus amphora.

‘Personally I love the amphora wine,’ said Pike, ‘but in terms of selling wine in sufficient quantities to make it worthwhile, the straight fermentation works really well.’

A crossing of Siegerrebe and Muller Thurgau, Ortega is an early-ripening variety with naturally high sugar levels.

Currently, there are 38 hectares planted to the grape in the UK, far behind Bacchus which, at 165 hectares, remains the most popular still-wine variety. UK vine guru Stephen Skelton explained why it hasn’t had more fans in the UK.

‘It’s viticulturally tricky,’ he said. ‘It’s sensitive at flowering and prone to botrytis. Quality of the finished wine is but one element of the mix.’

Over in Kent, however, Pike is undeterred.

‘I just think that Ortega has loads of potential,’ he said. ‘It has such a wonderful flavour to it, and if you make it in the rich style it goes really well with food, too. I would think we’ll see more Ortega going forward. It’s just got such a lot going for it.’

Westwell’s wines are available through Bancroft

 

 

Photography by Ady Kerry.

Related articles

Wine

Opinion: Bored of Bordeaux

Not long ago three folk from the Bordelais CIVB came into my place of work.

News

Premiumisation key for M&B in wake of cost pressures

Mitchells & Butlers says it is focusing on the premiumisation of its estate alongside cost cutting in order to maintain its margins against a flurry o

Wine

Conviviality posts strong results, with sales up 137%

In the wake of its recent acquisition of Bibendum PLB Group, Conviviality has announced strong results for the 53 weeks to 1 May 2016, including an in

Beer & Cider

Beer and food matching: Time to mix it up

‘It’s time to throw progression out of the window!’ So said Adam Dulye, executive chef and culinary director of the US Brewers Association, as he intr