English Sparkling Wines Out Perform Champagne in London
4th December 2019
If we think about wines that have bubbles then it is Champagne that comes to mind first for many of us. It owns the title and rightly so, as ‘the King of wines / wine of Kings’ and for years has been the benchmark for many a wine producer in the field of making sparkling wines – The flavours and aromas of this famous wine region have kept the world captivated and impressed for centuries.
Though well loved, it stands not alone with plenty of other sparkling wine regions now producing some fine examples that wine experts will admit to equalling in aromas and flavours. It is also not uncommon to find that other sparkling wines have been confused for being Champagne, especially via blind tastings, and have also been scored and awarded higher when being judged.
One of the up and coming and somewhat new kids on the block is English sparkling wine. Though the discovery of bubbles in wines can be credited, though not fully proven, to have been founded in England by Dr Christopher Merrett in 1662 and bottle fermented sparkling wines were first produced in the 1950s, English sparkling wines hit the scene for real in the 1980s.
Just how good are English sparkling wines compared to Champagne?
There is, of course, no real reason for English sparkling wines not to be just as good as Champagne with the soil in southern parts of England being similar to the terroir of Champagne. Climate change can be blamed or credited, depending on your view of the subject, to have aided in the quality of the grapes being grown in England with the perfect average temperatures shifting north from the Champagne region to over the English Channel.
Experience is always vital in any business and for wine producing especially, which of course makes Champagne a far better force compared to sparkling wine made in England. The whole system is far more advanced in Champagne from production levels that aid the likes of brand awareness to the experience of winemakers with many generations having passed down invaluable guidance – Though this knowledge is being shared and transferred globally now and experienced wine professionals are also leaving Champagne for more attractive challenges and opportunities abroad.
We should also remember that Champagne houses are now seeing the value of English terrior and have been buying up land for the planting of vines and sparkling wine production. The reasons for this exploration on to English soils will, of course, be business driven in that land prices for planting vines are at a fraction of that compared to classified areas of Champagne, though also that English sparkling wines could continue to improve in quality and in turn value.
There are a variety of flavours that can be explored with English sparkling wines with many grape varieties to choose from. Mostly traditional method, so the same wine production process as Champagne, there are over 650 commercial vineyards in England and Wales with 168 wineries producing some 13 million or so bottles annually with 69% being sparkling.
English sparkling wines have really improved over recent years and have great versatility for wine lovers to enjoy to include being a perfect partner to many styles of gastronomy. The price point remains very similar to Champagne (if we eliminate the cheaper Champagne labels sold bulk by supermarkets) and alongside France’s famous fizz English sparkling wine is also exported globally with approximately 10% of production being enjoyed outside of England.
English sparkling wine beats Champagne at The World’s Finest Glass of Bubbly Awards 2019
During London’s prestigious Champagne and sparkling wine awards run by Glass of Bubbly where fifty top wine judges arrive from across the globe to judge the best wines, results showed that England shone over its close neighbours. Out of nineteen trophies on offer Champagne took home two (including the title of The World’s Finest Glass of Bubbly) with England taking four including the trophy for ‘Gastronomic’.
The World’s Finest Glass of Bubbly Awards are held annually and it awards Champagne and sparkling wines with medals and trophies within consumer friendly categories having easy to understand descriptive such as ‘Fruity & Floral’, ‘Oaky & Toasty’ and ‘Sea Breeze’.
The competition is of a high standard with hundreds of wines entering offering amazing flavours to tempt the judges. Not limited to the more well known regions such as Champagne, Prosecco and Cava as countries such as Japan, Turkey, Canada and Slovenia also enter. Well known labels to the yet to be discovered – Your wine must really appeal in order to gain a trophy which makes England’s achievement in the competition such a great one.
Four amazing sparkling wines took home trophies in 2019 which are:
2019 Trophy for ‘Gastronomic’: Fox & Fox – Midnight Dark Dry Rose Brut 2011
2019 Trophy for ‘Light & Fruity’: Fitz Sparkling Wine – Fitz Pink
2019 Trophy for ‘Summer Days’: Raimes – Vintage Rose
2019 Trophy for ‘Spring Fling’: Bolney Estate – 2017 Cuvée Rosé Brut
Sparkling wine from England also out performed Prosecco!
The Fitz Pink from England is a rosé made by the Charmat method which is the same production method for making Prosecco, they are the first to be doing this in England.
Charmat method is certainly famous thanks to Prosecco whom have global awareness and millions of fans. Despite this greatness, it stood behind the Charmat method of England as no Prosecco label took home a trophy during 2019 The World’s Finest Glass of Bubbly Awards leaving Fitz Sparkling Wine head and shoulders above the famous northern Italian sparkling wine region.
Co-founder of Glass of Bubbly. Journalist and author focused on Champagne & Sparkling Wines and pairing them with foods.