End Grain, Tillingham

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End Grain, 2020, Tillingham

An aromatic and complex lightly macerated wine form pioneers of English natural wine

Region: Sussex, England
Grape(s): Ortega, Chardonnay, Bacchus, Schönburger
Genre: Organic (in mindset, not stamp)
Low Sulphur: Yes
Tasting Notes: Lots of stone fruits – apricot, peach, pear – and some savoury touches to boot

Ben Walgate, friend of NAW and pioneer of British natural wine, set up Tillingham in 2017. It overlooks the Tillingham river, near the town of Rye, East Sussex. With a farm dating back to the 13th century, it makes sense that they are “championing ancient traditions” in their work in both the vineyard and the cellar. Ben is a strong believer in biodiversity in the vineyards and they view the vines as only a part of a holistic ecosystem that ranges from vineyards to fruit trees, woodlands and livestock. Their wines are natural and made without any (or very, very little) added sulphur, and he is incorporating long-skin contact on some whites, carbonic maceration on some reds and the use of Qvevri (as well as the more traditional stainless steel, oak barrel and concrete) for both fermentation and aging. Qvevri is an ancient Georgian clay vessel, that is buried under the ground, that has been used in winemaking for many millennia. Burying it allows for more stable temperatures during the fermentation and aging process, which (above land) can be incredibly hot in summer and incredibly cold in winter due to Georgia’s continental climate.

End Grain 2020 is a blend of 36% Bacchus, 33% Madeline Angevine, 28% Ortega and 3% Müller Thurgau, which are worked in different ways and then blended into stainless steel tanks before bottled with hardly any added sulphur, and no filtration or fining. The result is an aromatic and complex skin contact wine, with citrus, elderflower, peach, spice, salinity, minerality and a crunchy tannic grip. For the wine nerds, Ben makes it like this:
- The Ortega is destemmed and maceration for 10 days before pressing and fermenting in steel tanks; it is aged one month in old oak barrels and then six months in concrete vats.
- Around 1/5 of the Madeline Angevine (6% total wine) is macerated as whole bunches and then pressed into steel.
- The other 4/5 Madeline Angevine and most of the Bacchus co-ferment in stainless steel and then ages in oak,
- A little Bacchus (6% total wine) ferments and stays in steel
- The Müller-Thurgau is pressed as whole bunches and fermented in steel
Then the aforementioned blending into steel before bottling take place and our whacky professor’s work is done - and what mighty fine work it is.