England's Only Commercial Chasselas
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We are happy to announce another competition win for Bluebell Vineyard in 2023! Our very own Ashdown Chasselas 2020 has won bronze in Mondial Du Chasselas. This competition pitted England’s only Chasselas against wines from countries who have been growing it for decades. In celebration, we would love to take you on a deep dive of this fantastic, yet not as well known, varietal.
Chasselas (also known as Gutedel) is a Swiss Varietal, which has also found great popularity in France and Germany. If you’ve ever been on a skiing holiday you have almost certainly come across this varietals wine alongside a fondue. Characteristics of this grape are big berries, big bunches and open hanging fruit. Its style is lanky with a yellowish pink growing tip. It can also come in red or white. We personally, have planted the white Chasselas as it is much easier to grow in England’s cold climate.
We were first drawn to growing Chasselas as our owner expressed interest in delving into a heavier cropping, bigger berried grape. After in depth research we came across this stunning varietal as it can crop exceptionally well. Our winemaker was drawn to the stone fruit notes on its palate and heavier weight as well as the good mouthfeel associated with this grape. Depending on the winemaking techniques, these attributes can make it a fantastic food wine and our winemaking team couldn’t wait to experiment with how to best bring these out. We also wanted to do something no one else was doing. As far as we are aware we are the only commercially grown Chasselas in the country!
We believe the reason that more UK Vineyards don’t grow Chasselas is mainly because of a lack of awareness surrounding this varietal. In wine, it is common for vineyards to focus on varietals that are more widely recognised, such as the Pinots and Chardonnay. We hope to be one of the frontrunners with bringing this stunning varietal to the forefront and hopefully seeing more UK made Chasselas wines pop up. Especially due to it being easier to grow than ever due to the changes our climate is currently experiencing.
With all of its positive points it does also come with some difficulties as it can be quite a challenging varietal to handle. Chasselas is particularly susceptible to disease, particularly both downy and powdery mildew. Due to this we have to be absolutely vigilant with ensuring these vines are kept clean and that we are on top of our spraying. It also can be very difficult to bring out the fruit flavours we pride ourselves on if the fruit comes in unripe, so this varietal needs extra ripening time compared to many others.
Our Chasselas vines were planted in 2013 with our first vintage releasing in 2018. We have had 3 vintages of this wine thus far though the first 2 were released under the name “Estate White”. This current vintage is the first to be officially known as “Chasselas”. We changed the name as at first, we were unaware of this varietals potential and were nervous as to how it would be perceived under the Chasselas name. We are now so proud to label it as a Chasselas and hope to bring more attention to this highly underrated varietal.
As this is such a new varietal to us, we are still in the midst of experimenting with it. When creating our Chasselas we aim to create a heavier mouthfeel by bringing out the stone fruit and lime notes in the wine. In tank, we are still experimenting with different yeasts. We are also seeing what effect old barrels could have on the weight of the wine without adding an oaked flavour. Our Chasselas is slightly lighter than French and Swiss wines from the same grape. This is down to our unique climate; we believe it brings an enchanting acidity to our wine. If you do get a chance to sample a glass of this varietal, whether it is ours or not, please do take it. It is our sincere hope that it won’t be our little secret for much longer. We can’t wait to see Chasselas’s rise in popularity.
To find out more about Ashdown Chasselas 2020 click here.
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