The Winery
Elise Lane
Grapes

Meet The Winemaker: Our NEW Bacchus Wine

We talk to Elise Lane, the winemaker behind our new Bacchus wine, made from what is fast-becoming known as England’s signature grape

Ask a wine aficionado to name a country that produces the best still wine, and England might not be the first place that comes to mind. However, our new Bacchus wine is testament to England’s ability to produce exceptional wine of its own.

Originally grown in Germany, the Bacchus grape does not ripen so well in warmer weather, making it a great match for England's unpredictable climate. Currently bringing a buzz to the wine world, the Bacchus grape thrives in our cooler temperatures, and has been touted as our country’s answer to Sauvignon Blanc. The Fortnum’s Bacchus is a fine example, and Laneberg Winery source the best possible Bacchus fruit from a single vineyard in Leicestershire.

After our experts blind tasted 40 different wines in search of our next bottle, it was the distinctly English character of the Bacchus grape that really stood out. The grapes are basket-pressed to fully capture the aromas and flavours of an English country garden, with notes of crisp apple, garden herbs and elderflower.

To celebrate the launch of what promises to be a new signature English wine, and a marvellous addition to Fortnum’s large and varied wine department, we spoke to Elise Lane, Laneberg’s CEO and Head Winemaker. While winemaking has traditionally been a male environment, Elise is one of a new generation of pioneering women running their own wineries and crafting exceptional wines – their award-winning Bacchus being one such superb bottle. We sat down with Elise to hear more about her journey into winemaking and what makes our Bacchus so special.


SHOP BACCHUS WINE




How did you know you wanted to be a winemaker?

'I did a Master’s in Chemistry at Oxford and graduated in 2003. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with that degree. I ended up in finance and moved to London. I did a few wine tasting courses and got WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) Level 2 and Level 3, and there was a part at the end of Level 3 about winemaking. I realised how much winemaking related to chemistry and became very interested in it.

When we visited an urban winery in West Brompton, in London, I realised that you could make wine without growing the grapes yourself, which later led to us starting our own urban winery here, in the North East of England.'

What interested you about winemaking?

'While I am interested in the growing side of wine, It’s definitely the winemaking side of it that’s my passion. If you took blueberries and made wine out of them, all of the wine would taste more or less the same – no matter what blueberries you took or where you grew them. Whereas we have so many different varieties of grape that lead to different tasting wine. While all white grapes may generally look the same, they can create such different flavours. There’s also so much you can do with your winemaking to enhance those flavours.'


Why did you want to make Bacchus wine?


'I trained in viticulture at Plumpton College and I worked in their winery. It was a great place to work as you have a number of students working with you, so you’re teaching others as you’re learning yourself. I remember making Bacchus wine there and thinking that if we could get this wine right it could really play into the Sauvignon Blanc market - which is big in the UK.

Most English wineries focus on traditionally made sparkling wines, but for us that wouldn’t have been financially viable as they are more expensive to make due to their popularity, and take longer due to the ageing methods and the double fermentation. So our initial plan was to make some lovely still wines, of which Bacchus was one. We chose Bacchus because we wanted to make premium quality white wine in England. In 2018, when we were just starting, I bought 3 tonnes of Bacchus, as well as some Pinot Grigio and Rosé, and our first 2018 Bacchus won us medals at the International Wine & Spirits Competition and the Wine GB awards.'


An English Hero

An English Hero


With distinctive elderflower notes, Bacchus has a grassy, herbaceous character, that can be enjoyed on its own or with a range of food pairings. In riper years, it has aromas of tropical fruit flavours.

Pair with Fortnum’s Organic Smoked Salmon, poultry, salad and grilled fish.


SHOP BACCHUS WINE


What is the ‘Basket Pressed’ method of winemaking that you use to make Bacchus?


'A basket press is traditionally used to make champagne – they put whole grapes in and gently press them to make sparkling wines – but it is quite rare in this country to use a basket press to make Bacchus. The grapes are put into the top of a large circular press and the juice flows out through small slits in the side. Once the juice has drained out, the press is used to push even more juice out. The flavour of the grape is in the skin, so the more you press, the more skin characteristic you’ll get in the wine.

For lighter bodied wines, you wouldn’t want to basket press them, as you’ll end up with harsher flavours and astringency that you don’t want. Since Bacchus is an aromatic grape variety, if you’re able to let the juice flow from the skins for longer it can pick up more of those skin characteristics in the flavour, which is why we use the Basket Press method. That’s why the Bacchus has strong notes of elderflower, peach, stone fruit and sometimes more tropical flavours.'



'Our first 2018 Bacchus won us medals at the International Wine & Spirits Competition and the Wine GB award'



Why is Bacchus so popular in the UK?


'Bacchus is similar in style to Sauvignon Blanc, making it familiar. It is a low-acid grape variety – it has around 6 grams per litre of total acidity, whereas our Pinot Grigio has 10, and Riesling is more around 17 – making it a more versatile, easy-to-drink wine.

While there’s things you can do with winemaking to change the level of acidity in your grapes, I would much rather have a grape that is suited to the climate so that you don’t need to intervene too much. Bacchus is also better if there’s been a cooler year – which makes it a great grape variety for the UK. In 2019 it rained all summer, but the Bacchus still came in beautifully and the flavour is consistent year on year, despite weather changes.'


What makes Fortnum's Bacchus stand out?


'The balance of the acidity, residual sugar and the fruit flavours that come through. I aim to bring out the fruitiness, with a lot of elderflower on the nose. I think that it’s accessible as a style of wine, it can be a food wine but it can also be enjoyed on its own too. It’s very easy to drink and the delicious notes that you first smell will always come through when you drink it.'

Bacchus Bottles
Grapes in Crates
The Winery

Fortnum's Bacchus Wine