Wen checking your Instagram and seeing Tillingham wines everywhere becomes your new normal, you may start dreaming of visiting the winery and tasting the wines. That is at least what happened to me. Thanks to Brockley Natural Wine Club and Salthouse Bottles that dream became true not long ago.
I was so ready! However, I didn’t really know what to expect by such an icon in the natural wine movement, such a unique and multidimensional project in the UK. I was just going for it. And here is what I experienced.
Tillingham is a winery with no entrance, you can find your own path that will lead you to it. There is a lot of nature everywhere and even objects and buildings blend into it. You are first entering nature and then a winery. Everything looks pleasantly unpolished, unfinished, living and transforming under your own eyes. The atmosphere is calm and all elements look casually but beautifully pieced together. Colours are gentle. Fields are lilac, green and biodiverse. New vines are living and growing. There is plenty of life.
Meeting Ben Walgate was an honour to me and he was such a great host. Something I value a lot in the natural wine world is a winemaker’s passion for their wine and land. Ben communicated this in everything, from showing us his qvevri, his wild grapes, his new vineyard, his winery and his warehouse, where even pallets of empty bottles had a story to be told. He took us on a journey through the winery, telling us stories about everything we saw, including the Starvecrow natural cider project. All this while tasting new experimental wine and cider, walking around, living the place.
There was so much nature around that sometimes all you had to do was to open your eyes and appreciate it. Breathe the air. Embrace the minimal intervention, outside and in the cellar.
After the winery tour we gathered in the main dining room for a different kind of journey through wine and food. We had a colourful salad with fresh, genuine ingredients from the farm and local producers, such as tomatoes, beetroot, courgettes, parsley. There were amazing local cheeses, fresh strawberries and cherries and a delicious homemade quiche. Eating this, tasting Tillingham wines, chatting with Ben.
We tasted so many wines throughout the afternoon, from the most famous ones to the last few drops of PN18 left on this planet.
Here is a short breakdown of what we tasted (left to right, I’m not sure about the vintages, sorry):
Endgrain - Blend of Ortega, Chardonnay, Schönburger and Bacchus, each variety is treated differently in the process, which results in some skin contact and some whole bunch pressing. The wine is as a result very unusual and interesting in flavour, with stone fruit and savoury notes.
Chardonnay - An all natural chardonnay with a label that celebrates 100 years of Bauhaus. It’s refreshing, tropical and citrusy, while presenting the buttery character from natural malo.
Tillingham White - Blend of Müller Thurgau, Ortega, Bacchus, Chardonnay and Schönburger, another one with an interesting combination of winemaking techniques, always respecting nature. The result is a delicate, appley, but distinctive flavour.
Qvevri Tinop (such a cute name) - This is a Pinot Noir aged in Qvevri and it’s part of the Qvevri collection. It’s a very limited production and I certainly regret not buying a bottle of this on the day. It was absolutely mindblowing!
PN18 - A rarity on the market, out of stock everywhere and now I know why. Pet Nat Rosé, this is a big blend of Ortega, Müller Thurgau, Dornfelder, Rondo and Pinot Noir, vibrant acidity, lots of fruitiness and tiny bubbles.
Qvevri Rüllem - Müller Thurgau fermented and then aged in Qvevri and topped up with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Aged under flor for 7 months. In other words, experimental and unusual.
Rosé - Blend of Rondo, Orion and Madeleine Angevine, this is a rosé like no other. Lots and lots of strawberries and pleasant tartness. Sold.
Spending the afternoon at Tillingham was such a powerful experience. It was so unique and so real and it brought me to live every moment of it as if it lasted indefinitely long, as if time had stopped while we were there. Of course at some point it was time to go, but I am taking this experience with me now, like it’s part of me.
I can’t wait to be back.