CAMELS OF CORNWALL
Updated: Feb 14, 2020
We had the immense pleasure of visiting three camels of Cornwall, while travelling there last week. And you would be correct in assuming, that these were not the four legged kind of camel. The Camel Valley, which draws its name from the River Camel, is host to one of Britain's many sparkling wine producers, Camel Valley.
Like me, at least a few of you must be wondering why southwest England has a River Camel. In fact, the etymology of the name is rather straightforward, like it is with most things in England. In Cornish the river is named Dowr Kammel, meaning crooked river; the english River Camel in undoubtedly an anglicization of the Cornish name - mystery solved.
Now, back to the wine. Alongside their impressive collection of sparkling wines, Camel Valley also produces four still wines, which lend themselves to the fresh seafood of the area: Bacchus Dry, Pinot Noir Rosé, Atlantic Dry (Pinot Blanc and Bacchus Blend), and Darnibole Bacchus.
The Darnibole Bacchus is particularly special, because it was awarded Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status by the European Union in early 2017. To our understanding, this is still the only vineyard specific PDO in the United Kingdom. While there is a PDO for "English Wine," this specific site was considered unique enough to warrant special recognition. Our kudos to the team at Camel Valley, for pursuing this designation; one can only imagine the bureaucracy they encountered over their five year journey.
The wine really is special. The slate soils provide a depth of minerality to the wine that is not present in their typical bacchus. The PDO prevents the winemaker from chaptalizing this wine, which is a typical practice for their other wines, and still requires a minimum ABV, requiring extra care in the vineyard to ensure complete ripeness.
The Darnibole Bacchus is clear, and very pale in appearance. It smells fresh, and lightly aromatic; much more restrained than some other bacchus. On the palate, notes of lemon and gooseberry persisted, alongside hints of white pepper. The wine is bone-dry, and has a short, pleasant finish.
We paired it up with a lovely pasta dish, painstakingly prepared in the London flat we had rented for the last few days of our trip. The kitchen accessories were woefully inadequate, so there was a lot of creativity involved to make a successful dish. A cream sauce, chock full of asparagus, kale, peas, and broccolini, was served atop casarecce pasta. To garnish, I added a fried lemon, and a sliver of panfried baby leek.
In particular the fried lemon, and the asparagus matched well with the wine. The light cream sauce was mouth coating, and the exceptional acidity and structure in the wine helped cleanse and refresh the palate.
We also had the chance to taste a range of Camel Valley's Sparkling wines, all of which were very well made. In particular their White Pint Noir (Because they cannot use the Blancs de Noir term), was a standout for us. The sparkling wines are priced comparatively with quality champagne, and certainly hold their own when it comes to taste.