English sparkling wine have been making major strides in the past two years, winning a number of prestigious awards and helping to build the UK’s domestic wine industry into an internationally recognised brand with a reputation for reasonable prices and world-class fizz.
Britons purchased a record amount of champagne and sparkling wine totalling £164 million in 2018, the demand for which is being matched by growth of UK vineyard acreage and viticulture. However, despite there being a strong positive sentiment with regards to the UK wine industry and how their bottled brands are definitely worth their price tag and then some, many wine consumers still prefer to pay an additional £10-£20 for a bottle of Champagne, rather than spending the same amount for English sparkling wines which are comparable in taste and quality.
It is hoped that the collaboration between UK wine producers and renowned Champenois such as Taittinger and Pommery can increase the desirability of English sparkling wines in the domestic market, as more potential consumers will view the UK bottles as equal to, or even better than, Champagne and will accordingly be more willing to pay a premium for bottles. Simon Robinson, the Chairman of WineGB, gave some input on the matter: “There will always be those who prefer Champagne, just as there are people who prefer Burgundy to Bordeaux, but the number of people who decline to drink English sparkling wine at all has shrunk considerably and continues to fall. There are similar developments outside of the UK, with the US in particular being attracted by what we can offer”.
As discussed in a previous blog ‘UK Sparkling Wine – Standing Out in a Global Market’, UK producers are developing their own style, operating alongside traditional expertise originating from Champenois, whilst indulging in more creative and less regulated practices which will allow for more variance and experimentation to occur. This can only bring about great results as winemakers respond to the challenges posed to them by Champagne, Prosecco and Cava.
For those still uninitiated in the realm of UK Fizz and how cost effective these bottles can be, here is a short list taken from some of the most prominent brands which have had standout performances in the past two years:
Henners, Brut Reserve 2010, East Sussex, England (£26.99)
This delightfully fresh and aromatic wine has a concentrated nose with frangipane, vanilla and pear. The palate is accompanied by gentle biscuit and honey undertones, with a persistent and fine creamy mousse theme. With a succulent balance of citrus and lactic notes, this intense and complex wine can be considered a ‘gastronomic wine’ which provides serious competitions to many rival Champagnes.
Langham, Classic Cuvée, Brut 2014, Dorset, England (£25.00)
This Classic Cuvée 2014 was described as ‘Lovely by the glass and good value’ by Matthieu Longuère MS of Le Cordon Bleu London, noting its ‘floral, nutty, fruity and elegant nose’ with the palate poised elegant and providing flavours reminiscent of honeydew melon and poached pear.
Lyme Bay, Pinot Noir 2016, Devon, England (£21.99)
This Gold-medal winning English Pinot is best appreciated chilled, with its deep ruby red colour indicating a brilliant ripeness all too often missing from many English Pinot Noirs. Bringing about gorgeous, effortless, fleshy red fruit flavours of wild strawberry, raspberry and red cherry this wine excels in offering an ideal match for meat dishes of numerous varieties.
Hattingley Valley, Classic Reserve NV, Hampshire, England (£24.00)
This beautiful and complex English sparkling wine is sourced by the award-winning Emma Rice, who won the UKVA Winemaker of the Year 2014. With its pale colour and an abundance of fine bubbles, this light wine strikes a nice balance between peachy stone fruit and red apple on the nose which is followed by a creamy nougat aftertaste. It was noted to be a ‘food wine’ in the 2018 Sommelier Awards, with suggestions of roast chicken being an appropriate match.
Toppesfield Vineyard, Reserve, Bacchus 2016, East Anglia, England (£13.95)
Topplesfield Bacchus is a crisp, dry, fruity white wine which has overtures of elderflower with light nuances of gooseberry greengage. Leadenhall’s Robert Mason described it as ‘savoury on the nose, with some ripe lychee, peach and jasmine aromas, leading to a weighty body, with ripe fruit and fresh acidity’. This dish complements risotto very well.
Sharpham, Dart Valley Reserve 2016, South West England, England (£13.90)
This wine is ripe, and fruit driven, with a contrasting dry finish. White peach dictates the aroma and it an be found to have fresh, green and mineral notes, with hints of lemon present. Finishing up the taste experience is a subtle spice at the end. Crafthouse’s Andrea Rossi paired this wine as an unconventional choice ideal for fish and chips.