English Sparkling Wines
16th November 2023
In the world of wine, there is nothing more elegant and celebratory than sipping on a glass of sparkling wine. While Champagne from the Champagne region of France may have long held the crown in this category, there is a new contender that has been quietly but steadily gaining recognition: English sparkling wine. With its unique terroir, dedication to quality, and growing global reputation, English sparkling wine is making waves in the wine industry.
One of the key factors contributing to the success of English sparkling wine is the unique terroir found in southern England. Terroir encompasses the environmental factors, such as soil, climate, and topography, that influence the character of grapes and the resulting flavour profile of the wine. In recent years, many English vineyards have found that their terroir is surprisingly similar to that of the Champagne region in France, making it well-suited for sparkling wine production.
The chalky soils of southern England provide excellent drainage, ensuring that vines do not become waterlogged, which is crucial for producing high-quality grapes, especially for the production of sparkling wine. The climate, although cooler than many traditional wine-producing regions, is tempered by the warming influence of the Gulf Stream, creating the ideal conditions for the slow ripening of grapes. These conditions, combined with the rolling hills and gentle slopes found in regions like Kent, Sussex, and Hampshire, have created the perfect foundation for vineyards to produce exquisite sparkling wines.
English winemakers have a distinct advantage in their commitment to quality over quantity. Many of the vineyards are relatively small, family-owned operations that prioritize the hands-on approach to winemaking, essential for creating premium sparkling wines. The grapes are often harvested by hand, and special care is taken in the winemaking process, from pressing the grapes to the secondary fermentation that creates those bubbles.
While Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes are typically associated with Champagne production, English sparkling wines have started to explore other grape varieties, such as Bacchus and Seyval Blanc. These alternative varietals are better suited to the English climate and terroir and provide a unique and exciting taste profile. They can bring fresh and vibrant flavors, often characterized by zesty fruit and floral notes, which set English sparkling wine apart from its French counterpart.
The growing success of English sparkling wine hasn’t gone unnoticed on the international stage. English winemakers have received numerous awards and accolades in recent years, with their wines gaining recognition in prestigious competitions and from respected critics. This increased visibility has led to a surge in exports, and English sparkling wine is now available in many countries around the world.
Here are some of the prominent English sparkling wine producers:
1. Nyetimber, based in West Sussex, is one of England’s most renowned and award-winning sparkling wine producers. They are known for their dedication to crafting exceptional sparkling wines, particularly from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes.
2. Gusbourne Estate, located in Kent, is a premium English sparkling wine producer. They have a strong commitment to traditional winemaking methods and produce elegant sparkling wines from their vineyards.
3. Ridgeview Estate in Sussex has been producing English sparkling wine for over 20 years. They have consistently received accolades for their wines and have helped to establish Sussex as a key wine region in England.
4. Hambledon, known as the oldest commercial vineyard in England, is located in Hampshire. They focus on producing sparkling wines that reflect their terroir and heritage.
5. Chapel Down, based in Kent, is one of the largest and most recognized English wine producers. In addition to sparkling wines, they also produce still wines. Their commitment to quality has earned them a prominent place in the English wine industry.
6. Camel Valley, located in Cornwall, is another well-regarded English sparkling wine producer. They have a reputation for producing sparkling wines with a unique Cornish character.
7. Bride Valley Vineyard, located in Dorset, is known for its focus on producing high-quality sparkling wines primarily from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.
The rise of English sparkling wine is a story of perseverance, passion, and the unique terroir that southern England offers. With its commitment to quality, intriguing grape varieties, and growing global recognition, English sparkling wine is making a name for itself in the world of sparkling wines. Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or simply looking to try something new, English sparkling wine is a delightful choice that deserves a place on your list of celebratory and special-occasion wines.
Wine Professional from South Australia, has made a mark in the wine industry due to her passion and extensive experience in the industry, as a Wine Ambassador, Business Develop Manager, Merchant Success Manager, Wine Educator, Writer, Examiner and Critic for various wine companies and publications, all underpinned by her soon to be completed Level 4 Diploma in Wines from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, making her a valuable figure in the world wines.