Fans of the BBC series Detectorists will be familiar with the ‘gold dance’ performed by the show’s heroes, Andy and Lance, when they unearth a hoard of gold after countless hours’ metal detecting in the bucolic countryside around the fictional Essex town of Danebury.

It’s unknown whether the family behind Danbury Ridge, a non-fictional winery located between Chelmsford and the Blackwater Estuary, danced a jig on first tasting the exceptional set of wines produced here in 2020, but it would certainly have been justified.

2020 was the estate’s second commercial vintage. A notably tough growing season featured a succession of frosty nights in April, followed by warmer weather that brought about the earliest veraison seen in the region in a decade. Record levels of ripeness were achieved thanks to a late-summer heatwave. Rainfall and cooler temperatures in the second half of September reinvigorated the vines and slowed the ripening process, allowing the berries to develop complex flavours while retaining high levels of acidity – a winning combination, be it in Essex or Echezeaux!

Danbury Ridge has been a labour of love for the Bunker family, who spotted the potential of this 17 acre site scorned by local farmers for its shallow soils and dry microclimate. What initially amounted to little more than a hunch was given credence by multiple surveys revealing a complex pattern of London clay, covered in places by layers of gravel and fluvial-glacial sand. The climate is relatively dry – drier than viticultural regions in England’s west and south-west – and is notable above all for the long growing season exemplified by 2020.

The 2020 Chardonnay from Danbury Ridge was comfortably the finest English non-sparkling Chardonnay we had sampled – until that is, we more recently tasted the single-vineyard 2020 Octagon Block Chardonnay, released this week. The same applied to the 2020 Pinot Noir, remarkable for its juiciness and supple tannins (pointing perhaps to Russian River Valley more than the Côte d’Or).

We are delighted to have secured a small allocation of the 2020s and hope to grow our position with the estate over the coming years. We expect strong demand for all three wines, so please register your interest as soon as possible.

No ifs, no buts, no “for an English wine”: this is a trio of elegance and finesse that will leave you speculating just how high the ceiling might be, in future vintages, for the still wines of England.


Scroll down to discover the wines

2020 Pinot Noir • Danbury Ridge
£180/6 btls IB

Ripe and expressive on the nose, with juicy summer fruit to the fore and base notes of savoury spice and sous bois. The tannins are supple and inviting but that fresh acidity – as enlivening (almost) as a dip off the Essex coast – provides balance. The grapes for this cuvée hail from all three of the estate’s vineyards. They are de-stemmed and the wine aged in used barriques for a well-judged 10 months. The result is an approachable yet refined Pinot that will drink well throughout the next five years.

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2020 Chardonnay • Danbury Ridge
£174/6 btls IB

A Chardonnay with real poise and purpose. Expect ripe citrus as well as subtle blossom, stone fruit and hazelnut aromas. The palate is tightly wound, with shimmering acidity and some satisfying weight indicative of fruit drawn mainly from the estate’s clay-rich sites. With a resounding mineral character to the long finish, this wine is well and truly on point now in March 2023, but will improve further still over the next five to seven years.

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2020 Octagon Block Chardonnay • Danbury Ridge
£300/6 btls IB

The eponymous single vineyard is the estate’s oldest, with notably low-yielding vines on gravelly soil. It yields extra-concentrated berries that respond well to a longer spell in barriques; in this instance 18 months (in 2/3 new barriques). The resulting wine combines cooling acidity with an impressive weight of ripe fruit. The oak delivers a seductive lick of butterscotch that’s at peace with the ensemble. Could the Octagon Block prove to be Essex’s answer to Montrachet? Stranger things have happened.

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