Week 46 – Bacchus

We tasted: Camel Valley Bacchus 2016, Cornwall, England £14.99

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “There are very few weeks that I don’t look forward to with relish on our 52 grape adventure. I’m afraid that Bacchus week is one, as a near second to Pinotage.

It seemed right to incorporate it into our 52 because it is fast becoming a grape that is synonymous with English wines. I would dearly love to embrace English wines and make this week’s column a patriotic nod to the wine industry that is beginning to evolve here. However, the honest truth is I’d go for a bottle of British bubbly above Bacchus any day.

Whilst on our weekly shopping quest I was happy to find a Camel Valley winery version of Bacchus at the local Waitrose because this is a winery that is located in one of the sunnier regions for wine; Cornwall. I was hoping that extra dose of sunlight might tame the frequently searing high acidity of English wines. If you are an acid junkie this may just be the week for you.
In support of Bacchus as a grape it has character. Often described as “Sauvignon on steroids” because it takes the herbaceous, pungent characters of that grape and times it by about ten. Pleasingly it can have a British hedgerow character which makes me feel it has that sense of place we like to think of as “terroir”.

Onto the wine in question and I can promise I was keeping an open mind. The aroma was bang on expectations, a bold nettle and cut grass character with a fresh blackcurrant, like Sauvignon but more on the herbal and fruit side. Pleasingly there was a gun smoke note that I thought gave it more dimension than many Bacchus I’ve tried. To taste that acid did come through like a slap on the face and dominated the sensation overall. But underneath there was a fresh herbal flavour, like a wheatgrass shot if you’ve ever been to a trendy juice bar. The mineral smoke edge continued and I felt the flavours weren’t bitter but most definitely on that green spectrum. If I’d had more than a glass I’d definitely be reaching for a settlers tablet.

#ConfessionTime – I may be burnt by my first ever experience of English wine. My naughty sister plied me with English wine from a family friends vineyard at the tender age of 11. Soon after my mother found me giddy and nauseous, I think the phrase I used was “why is the ceiling moving”. Perhaps this early form of wine torture has tainted my feelings to local wine.”

Andy says: “My initial reaction to the first taste was that this was very, very acidic. I’m still learning, and so doubted if what I was sensing as acid was correct.

“Is this acidic?” I asked Emma. “Very.” came the no nonsense reply. It reminded me of Week 25’s Assyrtiko, which gave me the ‘sour shudder’. Yep, same here.

Relieved, I was curious to find out just how acidic it was. The fact sheet on the Camel Valley site has it as pH 3.15. Having no idea what that meant, I delved further and found an acidity chart at Wine Folly, and basically it is at the ‘acidic’ end of ‘acidic’, not helped by its dryness, as some more sweetness would tone it down some.

Colour wise, it would be pale straw, perhaps even very pale straw as it is almost water coloured. There’s a hint of apple, and it reminds me of the ‘sour apple‘ hard boiled sweets from the 80s. I didn’t get the smoke that Emma mentions, and I can just about get the connection to Sauvignon Blanc.”

Buying Guide

Bacchus is fast becoming the grape that England is famed for when it comes to still wines. It is a hardy grape when it comes to putting up with the English less than warm climate. Expect a grape that is often called “Sauvignon on steroids” it is so powerful. Any English Bacchus you can find will do.

6 thoughts to “Week 46 – Bacchus”

  1. I think this was the first non-sparkling English wine I’ve ever tasted. It was a Denbies, Vineyard Select Bacchus 2015 from near Dorking (M&S, £14). In my head wine comes from exotic far away lands so it felt surreal drinking a wine from within cycling distance on my flat in rainy, workaday South London.

    The wine had a pale straw appearance with a greeny touch. The nose was good and surprised me with a dose of tropical fruit as well as citrus, cut-grass and elderflower. It certainly was Sauvignon Blanc-esque, and interesting to learn that the grape is a Riesling cross which must be where the exotic notes came from.

    Unfortunately the palate didn’t live up to the nose (often the case for me, maybe my nose is just better than my taste buds). It was light bodied and very dry. There was a massive dose of acid, presumably as a result of the English summer, and the structure just couldn’t hold the level of acidity. The taste was mainly citrus fruit with an herbaceous twist. It wasn’t bad with a spicy lamb curry though.

  2. Hi guys, been away for a while due to moving house and various other shenanigans, glad to be back. I have got all the previous wines I’ve missed in the cellar, so will be filling the gaps in over the next few weeks.

    Wine – Chapel Down Bacchus 2017 (Majestic £15)
    Bottle says – gooseberry, elderflower, nettles, kiwi and cut grass

    I must admit I don’t normally do English still wine, due to its acidity problems, but forewarned is forearmed as they say.

    Pale straw, with a greenish hue, the first impression on the nose is an assault of grapefruit and elderflower, with citrussy backnotes, this is not a subtle wine, it reminds me of some NZ SB’s, being very open and almost aggressively ‘in your face’. Tasting it fresh out of the bottle yesterday, it was very sour and sherberty, a bit like those sour sweets my kids like to trick me with. Tasting it today, the effect is noticeably less sour, and more lemony.

    Either way, I quite enjoyed it to be honest. It went well with chicken chilli pasta, as expected. It seems a given to compare it with some of the Italian whites we’ve tried this year, but there was a different quality to the acid that I can’t quite put my finger on; the acid seems more an integral part of the flavour than an unwanted side-effect. Probably wouldn’t be in a rush to buy it by the case at this price, but wouldn’t put it in the ‘school raffle pile’ if somebody bought me a bottle.

  3. I tried English white wine some years back – was not impressed. Actually tried it on site in a vineyard in Cambridge. Both your comments on this week’s wine encourages me not to part with £14.99 buying Bacchus will instead go for a Chianti.

    Have a good weekend,


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