The debut releases from Walgate & Co, some of England’s most interesting still wines


This was a chance to taste the debut release from Ben Walgate’s new venture, post leaving Tillingham. ‘In some years the wines suffered from me doing too much experimentation,’ he says of his work there. In recent years he has shifted away from the absolute natural zero-zero approach, and these wines are still made in a lo-fi way, but with a more recognizably conventional approach. We tasted in the new winery in Rye, which is a big, open warehouse that doubles up as a trendy wine bar in the weekends.

Ben Walgate

Ben moved from Tillingham to his new premises in Rye in April 2023, and moved his stock here and then bought winemaking equipment. Most of the tanks are fibreglass, from the same tank manufacturer that Dan Hamm at Offbeat wine uses. He likes the way the wines develop and because the fibreglass is less conductive than stainless steel, the thermal dynamics are great. In 2023 he did 15 tons in the new winery here. The 2022s that are the first releases of Walgate were all made at Tillingham and brought down here in bottle. Total production of the new wines is 22 000 bottles across 9 wines.

Walgate Blanc de Noirs 2019
10.5% alcohol. 50% each of Pinot Meunier and Noir, aged in fourth-fill oak, 8 g/litre dosage. Grapes are from two growers (Pinot Meunier is from clay in Kent, Noir is from chalk in Surrey). 20 g tirage sugar so 5 bars, not 6. This is toasty and rich, but still fresh with marmalade, cherry and lime. There’s depth and harmony here, finishing long and bright with keen acidity. Good dynamic range. 92/100

Walgate Chardonnay 2022 Sussex
12% alcohol. A blend of all the Tillingham Chardonnay from 2022, numerous blocks and 6 clones, plus a bit of Chardonnay from West Sussex. Direct pressed to different barrel formats, with turbid juice. One sulfite addition post racking and then another pre-bottling. Unfiltered. Bright and lively with a hint of apple and lemon, showing chalky, slightly salty notes and a sense of lightness. Fresh and fine and quite delicate, but not lacking flavour. 94/100

Walgate Pinot Blanc 2022 Essex
12% alcohol. From Crouch Valley Vineyard. Direct pressed, a little bit of steel and lots of older oak. Beautifully expressive with nice apple and lemon notes, with a bit of grapey richness. Mandarin and pear, too. Has brightness but also richness. There’s a delicacy here with lovely tension. 93/100

Walgate Cuvée M 2022
11% alcohol. Ma stands for Maggie. This is a continuation of what he was doing with Engdgrain, with the older English varieties from Tillingham, with normal vinification after a few days skin contact. Complex aromatics here with lime, lemon and spice showing beautiful detail. The palate is mineral and slightly saline, with a twist of honey, pear and white pepper. Very precise with good acidity. Harmonious. 94/100

Walgate Rosé 2022
Pinot Meunier from Tillingham. Saignee: load press with whole bunches, give it a spin and leave it for 22 hours. Matured in neutral German fuder. Full pink with a hint of orange. Jellyish note on the nose with sappy red cherry fruit. Lovely fruit on the palate: a hint of ginger with nice glace cherry notes and a fine hint of green. Lovely brightness here: such precision and focus. 93/100

Standard red wine vinification is whole bunches with one third whole berry, plus some juice on top, and some CO2 added. No punch downs, no pumpovers. In concrete but when Ben runs out he uses stainless steel. Pressed after three weeks and back to concrete or in wood.

Walgate Pinot Meunier 2022
10% alcohol. 20% Pinot Noir, all Tillingham fruit. Sweetly aromatic with sweet wild strawberries and a touch of dustiness. The palate is bright and sappy with nice fresh fruit and a stony edge. This is textural, fine and fresh with a wide dynamic range. So bright and expressive. Serious stuff and quite beautiful. 94/100

Walgate Pinot Noir Reserve 2022
12% alcohol. Three best barrels, a mixture of Crouch Valley and Shotley in Sussex. All German clones. This is complex and quite detailed with red cherries, spice and dried herbs. Really fine and expressive with nice grip, showing Pinot Noir in its cool-climate best. Some subtle green hints here. Very fine. 1000 bottles made. 94/100

Walgate Pinot Noir 2022
12% alcohol. 4000 bottles made of this. Same vineyards. More concrete here whereas the reserve is oak led. Lovely aromatics here, with sweet strawberries and red cherries. Such finesse here with nice tannins but lovely texture and silky fruit. Very fine and expressive, and nicely grippy. It’s bigger than the reserve. 94/100

Walgate Cuvée 909
10.5% alcohol. This is 800 litre qvevri filled up with Tillingham fruit: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gamay and Pinot Meunier. Some whole bunches, some whole berries and buckets of juice. Just over a month in qvevri, then pressed to a stockinger puncheon and a barrique. Pale cherry red with some orange notes in colour. Such an interesting nose: ginger, pepper, herbs, sappy green hints and red cherries. Sappy, detailed and fine with lovely finesse and detail. Very fine and possibly one of the best English reds I’ve tried. 95/100

UK agent: Les Caves de Pyerene