If you enjoy a bit of bubbly over the holiday period, you might like to join me this year with some locally produced wine.
English sparkling has been bubbling under for many years, but is now ready to pop its cork as great wines are cropping up everywhere from Kent to Sussex and all the way down to Cornwall.
Don’t confuse British wine with English wine. British wine is a category of wines made from imported grape juice and fermented in the UK. It’s usually very inexpensive and might be good for cooking.
English wine is a quality product from grapes grown in English vineyards.
It’s no coincidence we’re excelling at the sparkling stuff.
The English climate is perfect for producing wines with refreshing crisp acidity, ideal for processing into sparkling wine that makes a great aperitif and great celebration wine.
Is it champagne? Well it’s true it fits into the same category of wine as champagne, usually produced using the same ‘traditional method’ of secondary fermentation in bottle.
It certainly rivals champagne for quality, but imagine you were an artist working hard to create paintings in your own style and people started calling them ‘Turner-style’ paintings. You might be initially flattered with the association but ultimately insulted that your own individual creativity had been overlooked.
English sparkling wine doesn’t need to be called or compared with champagne because it stands on its own two feet presenting its own quality character in the marketplace, so enjoy it for what it is.
Here are a few of my favourites…
Ridgeview Bloomsbury Non-Vintage. This South Downs family business has been on my favourites list for a while. Available from Waitrose or Booths, this delicious wine is made from the holy trinity of grapes... Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier grown in the chalky soils of the South Downs in West Sussex. Citrus, honey and melon fruit is complicated by a real biscuit complexity. The crisp acidity makes it an ideal partner for seafood or smoked salmon.
Hambledon Vineyard Classic Cuvée, available from M&S, offers complex toasty notes intermingled with floral scents, plum and baked apple pie. As England’s oldest continuous commercial vineyard (since 1952) Hampshire’s Hambledon represents a ‘labour of love’, now commercially successful supplying a number of quality supermarkets.
Hush Heath Estate in Kent produces the excellent Balfour 1503 Classic Cuvée NV. Hush Heath Estate in Kent is an old Tudor manor and the seat of the Balfour-Lynn family. It was planted with vines in 2002. Winemakers Owen Elias and Victoria Ash have been making wine at the estate since 2010, creating the 1503 Brut. Crisp apple and lively mousse with citrus and an interesting twist of pepper and thyme. This one is available from Majestic Wine Warehouse or Morrisons.
Duncan Fraser, from our local wine shop DVino, recommends another Hampshire wine, Cottonworth Classic Cuvee Brut. Another Chardonnay blended with Meunier and Pinot Noir giving apple, citrus and tasty bready notes.
Finally, Nyetimber Classic Cuvee, available from Booths and Waitrose, offers great complexity. A deep golden colour with rich flavours of citrus, baked apple and brioche.
So celebrate English Style this Christmas and New Year.