Introducing Walgate & Co’s Debut Releases: Some of England’s Most Interesting Still Wines

By | 25 March 2024


Our journey brought us to the debut release from Walgate, a fresh stride by Ben Walgate after his departure from Tillingham. Recalling his tenure at Tillingham, he admits that his frequent attempts at experimentation sometimes didn’t fare well for the wines. Over recent years, he has shifted gears away from the purely natural, zero-intervention approach, and although his wines are still crafted in a low-intervention method, they now have a more conventional resonance. The tasting session unfolded at the new winery in Rye – a capacious, open warehouse also serving as a chic wine bar over weekends.

In April 2023, Ben began his transition from Tillingham to the new property in Rye, moving all his stock here and bringing in winemaking equipment. Many of the tanks are made of fibreglass, produced by the same manufacturer that Dan Hamm at Offbeat Wine prefers. He appreciates the development process of the wines in these tanks and their thermal dynamics, which outperform those of stainless steel due to the lower conductivity of fibreglass. In 2023, Ben processed 15 tons of grapes at the new Rye winery. The inaugural releases from Walgate, the 2022s, were all crafted at Tillingham and then brought here in bottle. The total output for the new range is 22,000 bottles spread across 9 distinct wines.

Walgate Blanc de Noirs 2019
The Walgate Blanc de Noirs 2019 has an alcohol content of 10.5%. The combination of 50% Pinot Meunier and 50% Noir has been aged in fourth-fill oak, with an 8 g/litre dosage. The grapes come from two separate growers – the Pinot Meunier originating from clay-laden soil in Kent, while the Noir is grown in chalk-rich soil in Surrey. The tirage sugar level is 20 g, resulting in a pressure of 5 bars instead of the usual 6. The taste of this wine is rich and toasty, yet carries lingering notes of freshness, with undertones of marmalade, cherry, and lime. All of these flavours co-exist in harmony, concluding with a long, bright finish marked by sharp acidity. The dynamic range is impressive as well, earning it a score of 92/100.

Walgate Chardonnay 2022 Sussex
12% alcohol. This is a blend of all the Tillingham Chardonnay from 2022, across numerous blocks and 6 clones, with a bit of Chardonnay from West Sussex. The juice, turbid in nature, was direct pressed to various barrel formats. One sulfite addition was given post racking and another before bottling. Unfiltered. The end result is bright and zesty, with hints of apple and lemon. These light flavors are perfectly complemented by slightly salty, chalky notes. Despite its freshness and fineness, it does not lack flavor. 94/100

Walgate Pinot Blanc 2022 Essex
12% alcohol. This comes from the Crouch Valley Vineyard. Partially processed in steel and mostly aged in older oak. The wine is beautifully expressive, with enjoyable notes of apple and lemon, and an undertone of grapey richness. It also includes hints of mandarin and pear. This wine strikes a great balance between brightness and richness and charms with its delicate tension. 93/100

Walgate Cuvée M 2022
11% alcohol. “Ma” stands for Maggie. This is an ongoing effort, just like what he did with Engdgrain, using the older English varieties from Tillingham. After few days of skin contact, normal winemaking processes followed. With complexity in its aroma, lime, lemon and spice offer beautiful details. The palate is mineral and slightly saline, mixed with a twirl of honey, pear and white pepper. Despite this, it is extremely precise with great acidity, achieving harmony. 94/100

Walgate Rosé 2022
This rosé is made using Pinot Meunier from Tillingham. A saignée process was used: whole bunches were loaded into the press, given a spin, and left for 22 hours. The wine was matured in neutral German fuders. It has a full pink color with a hint of orange. The nose gets a jellyish hit followed by sappy red cherry fruit. The palate gets a treat with lovely hints of ginger and glace cherry notes, complemented by a finely hinted green. The brightness of this wine lends it precision and focus. 93/100

Standard red wine vinification incorporates whole grape bunches and a third of whole berries, alongside some juice and additional CO2. No intrusive processes like punch downs or pumpovers are used. The wine is fermented in concrete tanks, but stainless steel is used if concrete is unattainable. After three weeks, the wine is pressed and stored back in concrete or wood.

Walgate Pinot Meunier 2022

This wine has an alcohol content of 10%. It’s a blend, with 20% being Pinot Noir that originates from the Tillingham fruit category. The aroma is pleasantly sweet, featuring wild strawberries with a slight hint of dustiness. The palate is bright and energetic, with a nice fresh fruit taste and a stony edge. The texture is fine, fresh, and dynamic. The wine is quite arresting and impressively expressive. 94/100

Walgate Pinot Noir Reserve 2022

This has an alcohol content of 12%. It’s a mixture of the three best barrels sourced from Crouch Valley and Shotley in Sussex, all German clones. The wine is considerably complex and finely detailed, embodying the flavors of red cherries, spice, and dried herbs. Intricately expressive and elegant, with a nice grip; this wine showcases the cool-climate variant of Pinot Noir at its best. Few subtle green hints can be detected. Only 1000 bottles were produced. 94/100

Walgate Pinot Noir 2022

This wine also holds an alcohol content of 12%. A total of 4000 bottles have been produced from the same vineyards. More concrete is utilized in this variant as compared to reserve which is oak-led. The aroma here is endearing, featuring sweet strawberries and red cherries. With substantial finesse, delicate tannins, and a lovely texture, this variant also sports silky fruit flavors. Highly expressive, elegant, and subtly grippy, this wine embodies a more substantial profile than the reserve. 94/100

Walgate Cuvée 909
10.5% alcohol. This is 800 litre qvevri filled up with Tillingham fruit: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gamay and Pinot Meunier. Some whole bunches, some whole berries and buckets of juice. Just over a month in qvevri, then pressed to a stockinger puncheon and a barrique. Pale cherry red with some orange notes in colour. Such an interesting nose: ginger, pepper, herbs, sappy green hints and red cherries. Sappy, detailed and fine with lovely finesse and detail. Very fine and possibly one of the best English reds I’ve tried. 95/100

UK agent: Les Caves de Pyerene

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *