Albourne Estate Vermouth
Albourne Estate is a 10 hectare vineyard and winery situated just outside Hurstpierpoint in West Sussex. Alison Nightingale produces incredible still and sparkling wines which are elegant and exquisite. If you haven’t tried her wines before, you need to seek them out right now.
The estate’s latest release of a vermouth brings Albourne into the flurry of English vineyards branching out into spirits. These are my ideal products!
The name 40 Vermouth relates to the number of botanicals used. The exact botanical recipe is kept secret, but includes rosemary, thyme, rose petals and chamomile alongside citrus peels, saffron and cardamom. Slightly more unusual is the addition of coffee beans and tea. The only botanical legally required in vermouth is wormwood. In the future, Alison hopes to grow many of the botanicals herself.
The base of 40 Vermouth is a blend of sparkling wine bases, consisting of a high percentage of Chardonnay as this is the dominant sparkling variety grown at Albourne Estate. Some of the base wines have spent a few months in oak which contributes added complexity.
I’m especially pleased that Alison has undertaken the production of her vermouth on site at Albourne Estate rather than getting a third party involved. In order to purchase the 96% grain spirit, (used to fortify the vermouth) Alison had to obtain two extra HMRC licences.
40 Vermouth is bottled at 18% ABV which was a conscious decision made on the basis that higher alcohol aids complexity “due to reactions between the ethanol and fermentation esters and terpenes from the grapes over time.” Vermouth can legally be bottled anywhere between 14.8% and 22% ABV. Over 15%, the duty increases sharply, but fortunately Alison focuses on quality and flavour rather than playing a number game. Additionally, no microorganisms can survive in 18% alcohol meaning 40 Vermouth has a longer shelf life once opened.
Having said that, I feel it is important to highlight that fortified wines, (vermouth, port, sherry etc) do not last indefinitely and should be consumed within 3-4 weeks of opening. It is vital to keep them in the fridge once open.
The first batch of 40 Vermouth created just over 2,000 bottles. The size of future batches will vary depending on many factors including demand, but more importantly harvest quantities. The vermouth will not be sold on a vintage basis as the flavours contributed by the botanicals are more significant than any variation in base wine. Alison sells 40 Vermouth on an allocation model, the same as for her still wines.
All of Albourne Estate’s wines have absolutely stunning labels which represent the wildlife present in the vineyard. 40 Vermouth continues this with its incredible design being courtesy of Will Parr at Studio Parr, a fantastic South East design and branding agency who work with many brilliant Sussex companies.
Aromas: Fresh and vibrant with gorgeous floral aromas lifting out of the glass. Evokes images of strolling through an English meadow in late summer. Great complexity and depth. A tiny hint of oak provides another layer of support underneath.
Palate: Succulent and juicy with a bright, bold hit of orange peel upfront. Gentle blossom characters develop alongside authentic grape flavours. This vermouth tastes as amazing as Albourne’s wines do and you can genuinely appreciate the character coming from their own grapes. Rich with fantastic structure and a round mouthfeel. Perfectly balanced sweetness.
40 Vermouth is an outstanding product, both in flavour and appearance. It is fantastic to see Albourne Estate utilising their base wines in this way and creating a vermouth which reflects their distinctive, amazing style. Whilst the botanicals hold centre stage, the characters obtained from the base wines shine through and make this a cohesive addition to their portfolio.