A bottle of English sparkling wine madam? No its not your hearing, nor April fools day! A sparkling wine revolution is underway in England and its time to discover what beautiful bubbles we have grown and bottled on our green and pleasant land.
A selection of English Sparkling Wines
English sparkling wines are battling it out with the best Champagne houses and often coming out on top winning many prestigious global sparkling wine awards. Often confused with British wines, which are grown abroad but fermented and bottled in Britain, English wines are storming into the wine industry with critics and sparkling wines lovers both keen to sip their way through the top vintages, available at some of Londons best bars and restaurants.
Top-quality English sparkling wine only emerged at the end of the 1990s. But the success of producers such as Nyetimber, Ridgeview, Chapel Down and Camel Valley is transforming the English wine industry and encouraging more entrepreneurs to plant vineyards in perfect growing locations across England including Sussex, Kent and Cornwall. With 4million bottles produced in Britain last year (compared with up to 6bn in France) some producers cannot meet demand.
The best English wines are made from the champagne grapes pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier. The growth of English sparkling wines is down to the realization that southern parts of England share the same soil and climate as Champagne the world's most famous sparkling wine region as well as adopting the same techniques learnt from the best champagne houses. These bottles can genuinely compete on level terms with Champagne as multiple award winners testify.
Photo provided courtesy of Bolney Wine Estate
English wine production has been helped by geology and the microclimate but also by the strong Euro and Australian Dollar, which have made importing wines more expensive and wine lovers looking for an alternative option for their choice of bottle.
The idea of spending out on a bottle of bubbly from Kent, Sussex or Cornwall rather than on a medium-quality Champagne may seem laughable to some, but again and again in international competitions, the best English wines win the gold medals so the time has come to give the English a go for your next celebratory night out.
Samantha Linter, Head Winemaker at Bolney Wine Estate, said: The most significant growth we have seen in the industry has come from the rosé sparkling category. However, the white styles are not far behind, as, confirmed by recent awards such as 2010 International Wine Challenge Trophy (IWC) won by Camel Valley Wines from Cornwall. They knocked champagne giants off their pedestal beating more than 450 individual wines for the first time.
Photo provided courtesy of Bolney Wine Estate Pinot Noir Grapes
The only snag preventing the march of English sparkling wines onto the global stage is the lack of a marketable generic name for this type of sparkling like Italian Prosecco, Spanish Cava or French Champagne. The issue is widely debated among producers who do not believe English Sparkling Wine or Quality Sparkling Wine does their product justice let alone the tongue twister. Some suggest Merret, the name of the man credited with the invention of sparkling wine while others believe Britagne adds some grandeur to proceedings but as of today there is still disagreement within the industry and this could yet prove to be the biggest hurdle before English sparkling wine is a global player.
What and where can I drink English sparkling?
Camel Valley is a wine producer from Cornwall. Bob Lindo and his wife Annie started growing grapes only in 1989. Their son Sam now runs the estate and won IWC 2010 in the sparkling rosé category. Their award winning Camel Valley Cornwall Pinot Noir Rosé 2009 is famous for its wild-strawberry-scented flavour.
Where can I try it? 1707 Wine Bar, Fortnum and Mason Piccadilly London.
Nyetimber is a wine producer from West Sussex, Nyetimber estate now owned by Dutchman Eric Heerema, has grown from 35 acres in 1988 to over 400 acres, making it Englands largest vineyard. Their superstar wine is Nyetimber's Classic Cuvee 2003 crowned Champion of Worldwide Sparkling Wines in the 2nd annual "Bollicine Del Mondo" competition in Verona. You may want to know more about this fresh, succulent and subtly floral wine.
Worship Street Whistling Shop bar
Ridgeview was founded in 1994 by Mike and Chris Roberts and is dedicated to creating world-class sparkling wines in the South Downs of England. Among other awards, Ridgeview's Grosvenor Blanc de Blancs 2007 won a Decanter World Wine Awards Regional Trophy for Best Sparkling Wine 2011. Ridgeviews sparkling has a creamy taste with a neat lemon finish.
Chapel Down based in Tenterden, Kent, is one of the UK's longest established wineries. Their success increased with award winner Chapel Down Pinot reserve 2004, an English sparkling wine famous for its smooth and floral taste.
Where can I try it? The Drift, Heron Tower, City of London.
English sparkling Wine in a glass
Bolney Wine Estate, West Sussex, began as the vision of Janet and Rodney Pratt back in 1972 with just three acres of vines and this year will be celebrating their 40th anniversary. The vineyard itself is situated on a hill, which was part of the Butting Hill One Hundred, and is listed in the Doomsday Book. Since those early days Samantha Linter, daughter of the founders, has grown the Estate to 40 acres and received a number of international and national awards. Their wines always pass the Quality Wine Scheme and are therefore recognised as Quality Wines, not just Table Wines. Bolney sparkling award winning wines are: 2008 Cuvée Rosé, 2008 Cuvée Noir (traditional method red sparkling wine) and 2006 Blanc de Blancs. Bolney Bubbly is also encountering increasing favours, this new fresh creation of Bolney Wine Estate is a refreshing vintage sparkling wine, very easy to drink with a charming elderflower creaminess.