2019 Westwell Ortega & Ortega Amphora, North Downs, Kent
I have taken to calling in vast numbers of bottles to my home because the interminable lockdowns have made wine tastings impossible. Although this is somewhat of a logistical pain, the mountains of recycling are worth it when I come across wines as beautiful as my featured pair.
Hidden in a sea of English wine samples were two of the most beautiful labels in our land, on wines made from the little-known ortega grape. Developed in 1948 by crossing Müller-Thurgau and siegerrebe, this white variety has spread from its homeland in the Pfalz and Mosel regions of Germany to other cool-climate wine-growing countries, such as England and Canada. It is not as starry a variety as chardonnay, or even bacchus for that matter, but I adore top-flight versions of this grape and Westwell is a master at bringing out its incandescent beauty.
With delicate peachy notes, hints of mandarin peel and rhubarb stalks, this is a bone-dry and yet all-consuming wine with bracing acidity and stunning poise. Owner/winemaker Adrian Pike learned his craft from Will Davenport (a favourite winemaker of mine) and he has an artist’s touch with this grape.
In addition to my headline stunner, Adrian’s 2019 Westwell Ortega Amphora (£25) is fermented and aged in terracotta amphorae made by the Artenova pottery in Florence. There is heady fruit here coupled with raucous traction on the palate and this raspy, faintly masochistic sensation is nothing short of electrifying. Seek these wines out because they are like nothing you will have ever tasted before.
Matthew Jukes is a winner of the International Wine & Spirit Competition’s Communicator of the Year (matthewjukes.com).