Lyme Bay Winery – one to watch
When winemaker Liam Idzikowski announced that he was leaving Langham Estate, where he’d impressed with his first few vintages, to join The Lyme Bay Winery, Ian and I looked at one another rather perplexed. Most of us have seen Lyme Bay’s fruit wines over the years (they’ve been around more than 20 years, I now learn) and more recently their beautifully bottled liqueurs, but was Liam really going to forsake the grape for cowslips and nettles? As we noted at the time, a move that we would certainly be keeping an eye on.
Next thing we knew, four still wines appeared on the scene, in smart new livery evoking the Dorset hills around Lyme Bay and awards duly followed. A sparkler has now been launched, too.
I first tasted the wines at a trade event a couple of weeks ago and on a recent trip home from the west country popped in to the winery, coincidentally as a shiny new tank was being delivered, signifying developments afoot. In the meantime, I had also met Rob from nearby Castlewood and learned that as well as looking after his own vines, he’s also vineyard manager for Lyme Bay.
Earlier this week, I was fortunate to be invited to join the Lyme Bay Winery team at Hix Oyster & Fish House in Lyme Regis for the official launch. We tasted the wines with delicious food pairings overlooking the harbour, each with an introduction by James, who was in charge of winemaking and is now General Manager.
The full pairings were:
Brut Reserve 2013- Brownsea Rock Oysters
Bacchus Fumé 2014 – De Beauvoir Smoked Salmon and Horseradish
Bacchus 2014 – Mushroom Galette
Shoreline 2014 – Scrumpy-Fried Brownsea Rock Oyster with Watercress Mayonnaise
Pinot Noir Rosé 2014 – Strawberry and Elderflower Fool on Shortbread
The Brut Reserve is 100% Seyval Blanc, a light and fruity sparkler. It’s made in the traditional method, but recognising the fact that Seyval is an easier grape to grow and ripen than the Champagne varieties, is priced very competitively at under £20 and I think it will be a big hit at weddings and parties.
Seafood is not an unusual match for English wines, but the little chunks of smoked salmon with just a hint of horseradish were very special with the Bacchus Fumé. Bacchus is the English grape that does dare to speak its name and the expected floral notes are tempered and given a degree of sophistication by carefully measured use of oak for structure and complexity. I recently predicted the rise of English oaked whites and this is a superb example. The rich mushroom galette is just my kind of food and paired beautifully with the (unoaked) Bacchus. The strawberry and elderflower fool on shortbread with the Pinot Noir Rosé was a stunning finale.
I met Nigel Howard, the founder and heard all about how his original dream, as far back as 1987, had been to buy a vineyard. I learned that far from (grape) wines being an afterthought, the creation of the business and its growth over the years has been leading up to this point.
The event had more of a feeling of a family party than an industry event, with seemingly as many people who had helped the business over the years as those who will help to promote in the future, including Nigel as the proud parent, members of the bright younger generation coming through, a couple of quiet uncles who said little, but exchanged knowing glances from time to time, a somewhat disreputable friend who just happened to turn up and a glamorous Russian woman who owns a nearby hotel, for good measure. The family feeling and the deep connection with the local area and local food is clearly what underpins the building of a solid brand over many years.
It is said that there are 3 very separate jobs – growing the grapes, making the wine and selling the wine. Lyme Bay are growing their own grapes, with the vineyards managed by someone using experience from his own local vineyard and they will also be buying in some specially selected grapes, there was more of a winemaking pedigree than many of us realised with James’ wines already winning awards and the existing distribution arrangements giving them a head start with that, too.
So, as I said when I heard Liam was joining, and now reinforced, Lyme Bay Winery is definitely one to watch. With the stunning scenery, local food, and several more vineyards within just a few miles, a food & wine destination well worth a visit and one that I will be hoping to head back to soon.
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