Within 25 years, the English sparkling wine industry has grown by leaps and bounds. We now have 470 vineyards planted across the south of England, with 135 wineries producing sparkling and still wines.
Sparkling wines made from the three classic Champagne grape varieties – Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier – continue to be our strongest suit. And now the news that Taittinger is to become the first Champagne house to make sparkling wine in England is a huge boost to the rising reputation of English wines.
About two-thirds of everything we produce is sparkling – and the recent rise in popularity is partly thanks to talented winemakers, investment, vine age, increasing quality and climate change.
So what’s the difference between French fizz and home-grown bubbles?
“English sparkling wines definitely have their own personality and style,” explains Julia Trustram Eve, MD of English Wine Producers. “They have the elegance and freshness, but are also zesty and refreshing, with some lovely fruit definition as well.
“You can tell the quality in the wine from the elegant bubbles and a lovely zippy acidity to balance.”
The beautiful south
The best English fizz is produced in the south, across Kent (where Taittinger will be planting grapes), Sussex, Hampshire, Dorset and Cornwall – with leading producers starting to develop an individual personality for their wines.
“The popularity of English sparkling wine amongst UK consumers is going from strength to strength and it’s a very exciting time,” says Ian Kellett, MD of Hambledon Vineyard.
“Hampshire is a beautiful county and the largest in south east England, covering 1,455 square miles. It’s blessed with all the criteria required to produce top class sparkling wines – such as the right climate, chalky soil, aspect and altitude.”
The future’s bright
“English wine producers benefit from a long, cool growing season, enabling greater fruit development than other wine-making regions,” says Andy Brown, CEO of Hattingley Valley Wines.
“This long growing season results in ripe fruit with fresh acidity. Producers in England are unrestrained by tradition, allowing them a freedom to experiment with their wines.”
Have you tried British bubbly? Share your favourite in the Comments box below.