Digby: Visiting One of the Finest ‘English Fizz’ Producers

Tuesday 26th June, 2018

We drive through beautiful English villages South from London. These villages are well manicured and all with the core components: The Village Green – for cricket, bowls and walking the dog – The Village Chapel, and The Village Pub. We are driving to West Sussex, in between the North and South Downs. The line between the Downs is a chalk seam that stretches across several counties; Kent, Hampshire, Dorset, Sussex, and all the way to the white cliffs of Dover. The village in question is Pullborough in West Sussex where we meet Trevor and Jason – the owners of Digby Fine English Wine.

We sit in their living room of a beautiful converted manor – Stopham House, sun streaming through the french doors. The first question I ask is ‘Why?’

They proceed to tell their story. They both had successful careers and were in the United States – Trevor a Business Strategist and Jason an Engineer/Scientist specialisied in speech recognition. However, they both loved wine and were driven by the incredible, improving quality of English wine and sparkling wine in particular. They spent years meeting with sparkling experts from around the world and assessing the English terroir. They soon realised that the secret to England was identifying incredible cool climate sites across all of the counties that suited each of the varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and then blending these multi sites, as opposed to searching for single vineyard sites (indeed this is much in the same way as Champagne).

Trevor and Jason established relationships with a number of growers at high quality sites across the counties. Their first vintage was in 2009.

Their style is energetic, sophisticated and fresh. In typical English style, they tell me that flowering generally begins as Wimbledon starts and harvest is around mid October.
The name Digby was picked from Sir Kenholm Digby and the guys show me his oil portrait in their living room with pride. They tell me that Sir Digby was instrumental in English wine history. In the 1630’s he created handblown glass for wine bottles. Prior to that he was actually a pirate and the son of a gun powder plotter. Quite a man!

Digby’s current production is a mere 5,000 cases and they aspire to reach a maximum of around 10,000. In contrast, England is planting about 1 million new vines per year.

We take a tour of the village and then have a home cooked lunch of beautiful English salmon with a coupe of their wines. They tell me about two prevalent soils – pure chalk and a combination of sandstone and green sandstone. The combination of these soils and the cool climate gives the wine a unique English energy.


Wines tasted:

NV Digby Fine English Brut
2/3 Pinot Noir and 1/3 Chardonnay. A blend of 2012/13/14. 2 years lees. Beautiful texture, stonefruit, slate, hints of green apple. Delicious.

 

2010 Digby Fine English Cuvée Brut
Aged for 5 years on lees. Bigger, more texture, floral notes, racy on the palate. Excellent.

 

– Puneet