Sparkling wines sales in Britain are on the up, with UK producers proving that they can compete with the best in the world when it comes to a great glass of bubbly.
International prizes are being awarded and winners at sporting events such as the Grand National and the Boat Race are now officially toasting their success with a glass of English sparkling wine rather than champagne.
With summer on its way we look at the English fizz that will help you to celebrate any occasion, large or small.
From chardonnay to pinot noir, here are our favourites.
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Leckford Estate brut 2014, 75cl, 12%: £19.99, Waitrose
A traditional blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes grown on Waitrose’s own vineyard on the Leckford Estate in Hampshire and crafted at the Ridgeview wine estate in the South Downs. Beautifully toasty with a hint of hazelnuts to begin with, it settles down to and orchard and soft fruit flavours with a long and layered finish and a wonderful mousse.
Nyetimber rosé NV, 75cl, 12%: £29.99, Ocado
West Chiltington is mentioned in the Domesday Book, but it is the more recent history of this West Sussex vineyard that has excited sparkling wine enthusiasts. Using the holy trinity of sparkling wine grapes – chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier – the estate has produced some outstanding wines including this rose that’s bursting with raspberry and red fruit flavours. A blend of pinot noir (52 per cent) and chardonnay (48 per cent) you can find the key dates in each individual bottle’s production by entering the code number on the back label on the Nyetimber website.
Ridgeview cuvée merret bloomsbury, 75cl, 12%: £28.99, Ocado
From the winners of the coveted Winemaker of the Year title in 2018’s International Wine & Spirit Competition comes a beautifully balanced but vibrant blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. There are oodles of soft fruit and honey flavours here, finessed by notes of citrus and melon. It’s an ideal accompaniment to fresh seafood or a celebratory wine to enjoy by itself now, or in a few years when the chardonnay matures even more.
Jenkyn Place rosé brut 2014, 75cl, 12%: £31, Hawkins Bros
From Jenkyn Place, the family-run Hampshire winery founded in 2004, comes one of their very desirable vintage rosés – they’re only produced when it’s been a good year and the pinot noir grapes which make up 52 per cent of it are really ripe. Clean, bright and delicate with notes of red berries and toasted brioche, it’s made in the traditional champagne method with the chardonnay grapes providing a lengthy finish.
Raimes English sparkling classic 2014, 75cl, 12.5%: £27.99, Fareham Wine Cellar
An International Wine Challenge gold-medal winning wine from the Hampshire winery that has the same underlying layers of chalk you find in the best Champagne vineyards. That gives the wine – a blend of 51 per cent chardonnay grapes, 29 per cent pinot noir and 20 per cent pinot meunier, a zesty minerality that complements its apple, citrus and toasty flavours.
Plumpton Estate brut classic NV, 75cl, 12%: £22.99, Waitrose
This wine is produced from grapes grown on the Plumpton College Estate, a Sussex-based educational centre that offers undergraduate degrees in wine business and production. Crafted by students with professional help from viticulture and oenology staff, it’s a lovely, balanced yet exuberant wine with fresh-from-the-orchard apple flavours and a welcome toasted brioche-like finish. Only 2,123 bottles have been produced, so get it while you can.
Denbies cubitt blanc de noirs 2013, 75cl, 12%: £33.50, Champagne Company
The first blanc de noirs from the famous Surrey vineyard is a golden taste of summer with orchard and floral notes allied to hints of baked apples, soft fruit and an underlying minerality. Made from pinot noir grapes hand-picked from at the Hillside vineyard on the Denbie estate, it’s aged on the lees for six months and then again in the bottle for a further 40 months.
Simpsons Beora brut 2016, 75cl, 12%: £32.99, Naked Wines
From the north downs of Kent comes a sparkling wine that proudly bears the name of the Saxon chief after whom the village of Barham is named. It’s there that winemakers Charles and Ruth Simpson created this special blend of chardonnay and pinot noir that beautifully reflects the forested and chalky terroir of this corner of the garden of England. Lots of citrussy flavours as you’d expect but not too much acidity and an excellent mousse.
Sixteen Ridges signature cuvée sparkling white 2013, 75cl, 10.5%: £24.95, Slurp
“We let the fruit do the talking”, claim Haygrove Evolution, the makers of this exuberant blend of pinot noir and seyval blanc grapes. And it’s worth taking a listen. The vineyard occupies an ancient ridge and furrow field (hence the name) in Worcestershire which, with its natural ampitheatre shape, captures lots of sunlight. Baked apple and citrus flavours combine with a long and pleasing finish. It may be low on alcohol but it’s big on flavour.
Winbirri vineyards vintage reserve 2013, 75cl, 12%: £28.50, Waitrose
Norfolk may have been renowned for turkeys and for the Broads but it wasn’t necessarily considered the home of great wine. But that was until winemaker Lee Dyer came along and won a clutch of prizes for wines made from grapes grown at his Surlingham vineyards. This 2013 vintage reserve, made in the traditional champagne way has a precise and direct freshness with brioche and citrus flavours and a lasting finish.
Simpsons chalklands classic cuvée 2016, 75cl, 12%: £28, Simpsons
From the chalky terroir of the North Downs of Kent comes the second sparkling wine to be released from inaugural 2016 harvest at Simpsons’ wine estate in Elham Valley. A traditional blend of chardonnay and pinot noir it has all the balanced fruitiness and toasted notes you’d expect from a classic cuvée. The vineyards are in a designated area of outstanding natural beauty, so it’s no surprise that the wine is a charmer, too.
Furnace Projects wren 2013 brut 75cl, 11%: £20, Wanderlust
A welcome newcomer to the English sparkling wine scene, Furnace Projects is based in south Herefordshire, where Beth Derbyshire, the daughter of a local cider farmer, produces this outstanding brut from the seyval blanc grape. Appropriately enough, there’s a refreshing apple orchard flavour here with hints of citrus and floral notes. And while you sip it you can also appreciate art teacher Beth’s beautiful impression of a wren on the very attractive label.
The verdict: English sparkling wines
Our best buy is Waitrose’s elegant and delicious Leckford Estate brut 2014. The Ridgeview cuvée merret bloomsbury is also the perfect drink for a summer’s day – vibrant, fruity and refreshing. But if you like your sparkling with a touch of pink, then why not try the Jenkyn Place rosé brut – sunshine in a glass on even the cloudiest day.
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