English Wine Week: Top 10 English sparklers
In celebration of English Wine Week, the trade body Wines of Great Britain (Wine GB) have announced that three million vines were planted in the UK this year. This is the equivalent to a 24% increase this year, and in just seven years the hectarage under vine has more than doubled, making the UK one of the fastest growing wine regions in the world.
Sparkling wines account for 69% of wine production in the UK, and while this is unsurprising today, nobody would have predicted 15 years ago that English fizz would establish itself as a world-class sparkling, able to hold its own alongside Champagne.
“Not long ago, England was notorious for producing acidic wines from hybrid varieties that were more notable for their ability to ripen in a cold climate than for the attractiveness of their flavours,” said Richard Hemming MW, IWSC Panel Chair for England.
“But as the climate has warmed, and expertise has improved, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir have become the first choice of growers.”
In 2005 the IWSC was ahead of the curve, awarding the Best Sparkling Trophy to an English wine, made by Ridgeview Wine Estate, for the first time. This happened again in 2011, and since then English sparkling wines have flourished on the international scene, thanks to the work of talented, skilled and ambitious producers.
The IWSC’s panel of experts have tasted and reviewed over 100 English wines this year, and we have hand-picked a selection of the very best for you.
The wines were tasted blind by panels of three experts, led by our Panel Chairs: Anne Jones, Waitrose’s category manager of beers, wines and spirits, and Richard Hemming MW, writer, educator and consultant and contributor towww.jancisrobinson.com. The panels are also overseen by members of our Wine Judging Committee John Hoskins MW and Dawn Davies MW.
Each wine was tasted individually then discussed by the panellists, with wines scoring 90 and above re-tasted by the Wine Judging Committee for final endorsement, and to ensure consistency across the panels.
Ten top English sparkling wines
Clean silvery stream of bubbles flows through the pale yellow wine. Rich and a tad decadent: roast lemons, plum skin, cashew, toast. The palate is quite broad, with plenty of citrus acidity; it drives beautifully over the tongue. Mineral and very long finish.
Where to buy: Lea & Sandeman, £67.95
Bright light gold colour, with gleaming flashes. Good froth and a fast fine line of bubbles. Brioche and raspberry biscuit aromas, elderflower cordial and a hint of kirsch. The palate is quite exquisite, showing creamy elegance and textural complexity, and it has a long, structured mineral finish.
Where to buy: Laithewaite’s, £26.50
Pale, gleaming silvery lemon, with a fast continuous stream of bubbles. Lovely bakery and patisserie aromas; elderflower, and crunchy apple. This has a wonderful flow across the tongue: zesty, creamy and very textural; richly fruited and very long.
Where to buy: Waitrose Cellar, £23.99
Salmon pink; sophisticated smoky and raspberry notes. This is classy and complex, with a nutty, smoky and creamy character. Lovely autolysis and a palate that excites throughout. Elegant, regal and a classic wine. Stylish, with a good future.
Where to buy: Rude Wines, £35
There is a great density and richness to this well-balanced palate. Yeasty and mealy notes combine with honeyed and citrus elements. Showing some development and lovely texture in the complex, long finish.
Where to buy: Waitrose Cellar, £30
West Sussex, England
A wine with lovely balance and personality. The palate is rich and fruity, with nutty, creamy and brioche characters, but showing complexity and finesse.
Where to buy: Ridgeview, £50
Fresh, delicate and elegant nose. Excellent mousse. There is gorgeous purity of Pinot fruit here, with ripe citrus redcurrant and yeasty richness. Fine and vinous, with a lingering finish.
Where to buy: Honest Grapes, £30.30
East Sussex, England
Fine stream of silvery bubbles; rich froth in the mouth. The nose has lovely fruit characters – green papaya and grapefruit – with rich, biscuity autolytic notes. The palate is dry and vigourous. Brisk acidic frame, with good weight and character.
Where to buy: Court Garden, £25.90
East Sussex, England
Classic in style, this creamy, lemon, brioche and nutty palate is very well balanced. Fresh and light-bodied, with a slight salty edge to the finish.
Where to buy: Wine Poole, £28.50
Mid-yellow-gold colour, with good stream and mousse in glass. Lovely definition: stone fruits, honeyed nuts, sweet pastry. There is real depth of flavour here, with complex development. Beautiful, bright citrus acidity lifts and freshens the mouth – a really lovely wine, ageing gracefully.
Where to buy: The Champagne Company, £35
English Wine Week runs from 25 May - 2 June this year - hear from the team at Ridgeview, IWSC Winemaker of the Year 2018, about the state of the industry at the moment and the hugely increasing popularity of English wine.
Featured images: Harrow & Hope.