Put aside champagne and say no to prosecco, these days drinkers are increasingly choosing English sparkling wine when they want to celebrate in style.
The rise of this genre of English has been unstoppable in the last decade. There are now well over 100 wineries across the UK and over two-thirds of the wine produced in England is sparkling. In fact some of the best sparkling wines have attracted favourable comparisons with champagne.
This is not entirely a coincidence. In some southern counties of England, the soil and climate are almost identical to the famous Champagne region. In fact, many English wineries even use the same varieties of grapes that make up champagne, which is usually made with chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.
English wine making is finally getting the credit it deserves as growers and producers have mastered the particularities of the English climate, often drawing on the expertise of more established wine-growing regions. The result has been a dramatic rise in the quality of English sparkling wine, so with the summer fast approaching, here are some of the top vintages to look out for in 2021.
Jenkyn Place Blanc des Blancs 2015
Jenkyn Place is located near to the idyllic village of Bentley in the North Hampshire Downs and is owned by the Bladon family. They moved there in 1997 but only began planting vines in the estate’s former hop fields when Simon Bladon tasted English sparkling wine at a furniture auction in 2003. Two years later, they harvested their first grapes and have since produced high quality sparkling wine with a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.
The hot dry summer of 2015 enabled them to produce their very first blanc de blancs, made entirely with chardonnay. Produced by their resident winemaker Dermot Sugrue, this elegant, complex wine has an abundance of fresh fruit aromas and rich citrus flavours along with a rich creaminess on the palate. It is the perfect match for chicken dishes, light cheeses and smoked salmon.
Louis Pommery England Brut
Vranken-Pommery is a well known champagne house, but were one of the first to launch an English sparkling wine, as well as planting a vineyard in Hampshire last autumn. Their collaboration with local English vineyards has produced this stunning wine. Produced using the traditional method, taking carefully selected chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes, this is a lively fizzy wine that is pale yellow in colour and offers a lovely combination of honeyed stone fruits and refreshing lemon and lime with a well balanced and satisfying mineral finish.
Adnams English Sparkling Classic Cuvee
The ideal pairing with almost any kind of food, this vibrant and refreshingly bright wine with some of the tangy flavours of apples, is also perfect for drinking on its own. The non-vintage blend of pinot noir and chardonnay was made using traditional methods and then aged on lees for at least 30 months. The result is a wine that is golden in colour with a slight blush tint, offering a gentle creamy finish with
Tinwood Blanc des Blancs 2018
The Tinwood lettuce farm in West Sussex was replanted with vines in 2006 and the first commercial harvest followed in 2010. In the years since, the winery has expanded to offer tasting tours and overnight stays, while their wines have been going from strength to strength. Made completely from chardonnay, this blanc de blancs has spent a minimum of 18 months on the lees and 5 months on the cork to produce a delicate pale gold wine that offers zesty delight, featuring masses of tropical fruits and a lingering, balanced finish, making it perfect with a seafood platter on a summer’s afternoon.
Morrisons The Best English Sparkling Brut Vintage 2010
Produced by Rolling Green Hills for Morrisons’ own premium label, this 2010 vintage has been stored in cool cellars for eight years and offers deliciously fine bubbles and complex biscuity flavours. Made from a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, the wine has surprisingly rich hints of toast and stewed apple and would go perfectly with a roast chicken dinner.
Sharpham Summer Sparkling
This fantastic sparkling wine is almost the taste of summer in a bottle. Produced with estate grown red grapes, this fun and fruity wine comes from the beautiful Sharpham winery, which is set on the banks of the River Dart in Devon. A fresh pink wine, it has a gentle spritz and sunny red berry and clotted cream flavours that go perfectly with any picnic.
M&S Balfour Classic Cuvee Brut
The Hush Heath estate is home to the Balfour-Lynn family, a 400-acre farm that was originally a working farm but has been reinvented with apple orchards, woodlands and wildflower meadows, as well as being home to a variety of award-winning wine. This lively fizz, produced for M&S, is a perfect example of their balanced style, with vigorous citrus and apple flavours and a fresh acidity.
Kinsbrook Vintage Cuvee 2014
Kinsbrook Vineyard announced themselves on the sparkling wine scene in style with this cuvée, one of three debut wines from the Sussex producer. Founded in 2014, the vineyard is run by the youngest owner in the country, who was inspired to plant vines after travelling through New Zealand’s wine country. Kinsbrook’s first batch of wines include a limited production bacchus and pinot gris, but the vintage cuvee is the best of the lot. Created by award-winning winemaker Dermot Sugrue, the sparkling wine offers crispness with orchard fruit aromas that make it seriously drinkable.
Harrow & Hope Brut Reserve
Buckinghamshire’s famous Harrow & Hope winery was named England’s Winery of the Year in 2019, and its signature pinot noir-based blend of sparkling wine has landed multiple prizes. It is produced by respected winemaker Henry Laithwaite, who began his wine making career in Bordeaux and Australia before returning to Marlow in 2010 to plant his own vineyard on a sunny, south-facing slope in the Chilterns. Light gold in colour, this sparkling wine is complex and creamy in the mouth with a toasted brioche aroma and a ripe, fruity finish.
Bolney Wine Estate Cuvee Noir 2014
If you’re on the lookout for something a little different, this sparkling red is good candidate. It is made from 100% dornfelder red grapes and has the lightness of fizz with the flavours of a red wine. It’s packed full of red stone fruit flavours, along with a hint of smoky spiciness to finish that really sets it apart from white sparkling wines. Served chilled, the strong flavours make it a great match with barbeques, roasts or rich desserts.
Artelium Makers Rose 2015
A new name in English wine, Artelium is a wine estate in Sussex surrounded by bluebell woods that offers sweeping views across the South Downs. Planted in 2018 and 2019, the vineyard has thrived on the area’s rich clay soil and long growing season. Artelium also have a second vineyard in Madehurst, planted on chalk soil to provide a second terroir to add complexity to their wines.
Their first two releases include this bright rosé, which provides startling intense colour, clean, mineral aroma and a creamy acidity on the palate. Its full-bodied flavours mean this rosé doesn’t need to be confined to summer sipping either, but would go down just as easily with roast lamb.
Tesco Finest English Sparkling Wine
Produced for supermarket brand Tesco by the award-winning Hush Heath Estate, this sparkling wine is perfect for those on a budget. A blend of hand-harvested chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes, it has been made using the traditional method and tastes like a far more expensive wine. It presents as a sumptuous pale gold product and offers a refreshing crispness, moreish apple and citrus flavours and delicate brioche notes with an elegant finish. The perfect fizz for a sunny day.
Hattingley Valley Blanc des Blancs 2014
Hattingley Valley was founded in 2008, at a time when English wine was still regarded as a novelty, and has gone on to become one of England’s most successful wine producers, exporting sparkling wine to 16 countries and scooping a host of awards. Its blanc de blancs has already won several prizes and the 2014 vintage is another wonderful edition, thanks to that year’s mild spring and sunny summer which created ideal growing conditions.
Made entirely from chardonnay grapes, it has a balanced, creamy texture and is aged on lees in the bottle for five years which gives it a rounded complexity. Rich with citrus and honey scents, this pale golden wine has mineral flavours and a refreshing acidity that will definitely keep you going back for more. It will continue to improve over the next five years and keep well for at least ten.
Nyetimber Cuvee Cherie
Nyetimber were one of the first of the big English sparkling wine producers, having released their first blanc de blancs back in 1997. Since then, the West Sussex estate has become famous among wine experts, boasting numerous awards for its wins made from 100% estate-grown grapes.
This cuvee chérie is another first, a delicately sweet wine that was originally designed to complement British desserts. Made with 100% chardonnay, it has a refreshing minerality, balanced citrus flavours and a clean fresh finish that pairs wonderfully with gently spiced Chinese, Japanese and Thai dishes as well as English desserts, although it also works well with a traditional afternoon tea.
Radlow Hundred English Brut Sparkling
Radlow Hundred is a wine brand that is known for doing things a little differently. The family have been farming this part of the Herefordshire countryside for eight generations in a region once known as the Radlow Hundred. Now their small-batch wines pay tribute to the local community and their farm’s history. This particular brut sparkling commemorates the freezing winters of the 1800s when locals were able to skate on the River Wye. It is a blend of pinot noir, seyval blanc and chardonnay, and is a light golden wine that provides free-flowing bubbles, a grapefruit and honey scent and delicious flavours of apple and melon.