Following on from our recent first release from Hundred Hills, I am pleased to offer the final three wines completing the first set of releases from the estate, this time offered in a mixed six bottle presentation case.
As mentioned previously, Hundred Hills is situated in the Stonor Valley in south-east Oxfordshire and was founded by Stephen and Fiona Duckett in 2013. I have been charting progress since its inception and have been stunned by the quality of their first releases. We offered the 2016 First Edition and 2017 Blanc de Blancs last week – both of which can be broached now but could reward up to a decade of further maturation. In contrast, the wines featured in this offer are all ready for drinking, even though they are capable of short-term cellarage if required.
If you wanted to read the full background on the estate and missed last week’s offer, you can catch up by following this link.
A point well worth noting is that every wine that bears a Hundred Hills label will be vintage – no Non-Vintage wines will be made. The cuvées produced each year will be dictated by the vineyard – this 20-hectare estate, with two sloping vineyards divided into ten individual plots, affords huge possibilities for blending. Stephen prefers to see the character of each year represented in the wine, but he will remain flexible as to which parcels are blended or, indeed, kept separate if they showcase a specific quality. Therefore, the range of wines will no doubt adjust over time with certain wines remaining ever present, such as the Blanc de Blancs for example, which largely comes from a particular parcel. Others will no doubt be introduced as the team gain a deeper understanding of the terroir and vineyard. The three releases offered here come under the ‘Preamble’ label – Preamble Rosé, Preamble No 1 and Preamble No 2 – a label which will only be used for these initial releases.
You might recall that I mentioned in the previous offer that, had we stopped tasting at wine number 2 in our recent tasting, we would have suggested that Hundred Hills was an amazing success story. The wines featured in this offer are the first three wines we tasted, and a second tasting has confirmed our initial assessment. Most ranges start with an entry level wine – not this range. Remember, only the best fruit from this 20-hectare estate is retained for Hundred Hills’ own wines – the rest is sold off under contract. Instead of a few entry level wines, you get a range of wines each with their own individual character and each meeting the desired Hundred Hills quality level. Certainly, there is a step up in quality among the range, but no lack of individuality.
From the outset, Stephen wanted to produce a rosé and, given that he has some very good Pinot Noir clones planted at Hundred Hills, it is a logical step. He is not a fan of the pale, onion skin, orangey hue rosés that now dominate the grower Champagne category. Those shades are brought about by subtle oxidation – to avoid this he employs a technique that displaces air at the point of disgorgement (when the wine has finished its secondary fermentation and has been aged on its lees in bottle for a suitable period ). This technique allows the winemaker to retain a more vibrant rosé hue and that is certainly evident in the Preamble Rosé.
Please see below for my full notes on these exciting new releases,
all packaged in a luxury presentation case.
Hundred Hills ‘Preamble’ Selection Case
£140 per 6 bottle case in bond
Including 2 bottles of each of the following:
2018 Preamble Rosé, Hundred Hills
This is a blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. The Pinot Noir component is almost entirely made up of fruit from the Grappe Lache clone. This rosé is made with the addition of 6.5% of still red wine. Some of the base wines were aged in cask. It was disgorged in July 2020.
A bright rose hue in the glass with aromatics that suggest soft-skinned, gently creamy hints of summer berry fruits and subtle floral notes. In a similar vein, the palate brings together hints of juicy red berry, with zingy, almost orangey notes, in a generous, layered core of fruit. This is a bright and elegant style – immensely appealing. While this is a fresh-styled rosé, there is a sense of roundness on the mid-palate accentuated by the wine’s impressive mousse, and as I am starting to note in the wines of Hundred Hills, a sneaky persistence. A real success and sure to win a following. Drink 2020-2023 (SL)
2017 Preamble No 1, Hundred Hills
This is a blend of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay. The Pinot Noir is the low-yielding 115 clone from an early ripening parcel near the winery. Only the Chardonnay component went into cask for 2-3 months with some bâtonnage (stirring of the fine lees). It was disgorged in May 2020.
Racier and more restrained than Preamble No 2, yet that stone fruit character that seems to be part of the Hundred Hills DNA is once more on show. Gently scented, perfumed nuances as well as hints of peach and apricot are revealed on the nose. The palate shows more backbone than the No 2, with a more chalky, mineral undertow. That said, the riper, more exotic fruit characters gently build as the palate opens, aided once more by a beautifully expressed mousse. Long, pure and little more linear, this makes a fascinating contrast to its sibling below. Drink 2020-2024.
2017 Preamble No 2, Hundred Hills
This is a blend of 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay. The Chardonnay is from a parcel that achieves great ripeness, situated next to the tasting room. The Pinot Noir from the lowest yielding clone, namely 870. The base wines were aged in cask for 6 months and the wine was aged on lees in bottle for 30 months before disgorgement in May 2020.
This is a very appealing, very distinctive wine – it sets its stall with beautiful aromas of ripe creamy stone-fruit on the nose, all ripe peach, yellow plum and nectarine with creamy nuances too. There is a very luxuriant accent to this wine, with a soft, layered mousse and wonderfully ripe Chardonnay fruit to the fore. This is packed with flavour yet beautifully poised and remains fresh throughout, with the Pinot component adding restraint towards the finish. So distinctive, there is an array of fruit characters here that are far riper than you might expect given the origins. It all comes down to time on the vine, the fruit ripened beautifully and yet retaining a fine acidity. Creamy, almondy touches add complexity to notes of juicy apricot, peach and nectarine. Tangy to the last, this blend signals the diversity in the Hundred Hills range. Very impressive indeed. Drink 2020-2023. (SL)
Please note that the Preamble Selection Cases are currently being collected from the estate and we envisage being able to despatch from 3rd December.
All the best,