Thursday, 29 November 2018

Bolney Dark Harvest: Unexpected

So, a few weeks ago, some pals come round with a bottle of this Bolney Dark Harvest stuff. I instantly place it somewhere no-one can get at it, unnerved both by its high-tone demeanour and by its Englishness - specifically, its red Englishness. Yes, I think we're all solid with the idea that English vineyards can do white, but English red still has the capacity to give me a funny turn, despite the fact that in this case it comes with a slinky good-taste label and a little badge from some bunch of international back-slappers, just like a proper red wine. So it vanishes.

Some time later, I rediscover it and knock it off over a couple of nights and what do I find? It seems okay, is what I find. I can't remember what year was on the bottle and I have never heard of the rondo grape, but at the time it just goes down, quite assertively, but telling a good story on the way. It also stays down, not always a given. I am reduced to holding the bottle away from me and squinting mirthfully at it, like an Edwardian with a pet monkey, scarcely able to believe that such a thing can be, but quaintly gratified that it does.

Then I'm stirred by a long-buried memory: doesn't PK have something to say about this, somewhere in Sediment? And what do you know? He does, but over seven years ago, which distresses the hell out of me, I mean, have we really been doing it for that long? Anyway, he thinks it's garbage: bordering on the urinal, rotting, like biro ink, very unpleasant. There you go. He's talking about the 2008, of course, not whatever it is I've drunk, a 2014? 2016? Maybe the 2008 is their outright catastrophe, the one they never mention, their first, cacked-handed attempt. There are some comments beneath PK's rant which back him up: most unpleasant is the shock; I have never tasted such a hideous 'wine' in my life; and so on. It looks bad.

And leaves me where? Well, I'm still quite enjoying it, retroactively. It probably is a bit of a yob as reds go, but in comparison with my usual idea of a red it's got depth, for sure, plus an element of structural integrity I don't get in, say, Waitrose's own label Rich and Intense Italian Red, £4.99. In fact, far from writing the encounter off PK-style by wheeling out that old Dr. Johnson Christmas cracker motto about dogs on their hind legs, I feel like enlarging my love for all English wines, not that I've got much of a relationship with them, but for those that I have, which pretty much amounts to:

Bolney Dark Harvest (see above).

Nyetimber, whose award-winning sparklings I have hit once or twice and which I have slightly liked in a dutiful sort of way, as if they were doing me good, especially in the sense of rinsing my gums thoroughly.

Denbies, where I went, not that long ago, to a birthday party held in the winery's larger-than-life event zone. It was very grand and we wanted for nothing (I was seated next to an Italian Jungian, that's how far out it was) and the booze - the wines, at least - were Denbies all through: red, white, sparkling and rosé. And I have a quasi-memory of being pleasantly surprised - slightly in the manner of the Dark Harvest - by, I'm thinking, the rosé, although it might have been the white. Either way, it was no hardship to drink the stuff and I can remember staring with fuddled benignity at my glass and thinking how clever they must be at Denbies to make something drinkable right next to Dorking.

In other words: given a broad-scale complication of Brexit, climate change, a collapsed pound and some half-way okay wines, the English option doesn't start to look so ludicrous. It would be nice if they adopted some sexier names - I'm thinking Saint-Didier l'Inconnu, Eternal Crossrail, Balthazar's Lost Weekend, Gutbucket Hampton, more like the stuff that comes out of the beer breweries or anywhere in New Zealand - but apart from that, I think we have go. We have the full English. Time for PK to take another run at the thicket of his prejudices.


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