English sparkling wine: a beginners’ guide
Daunted by the prospect of switching from your favourite French fizz to something local? Give English sparkling wine a go and discover how good a thing we’ve got going on right here in the UK.
Find out what to look for in a bottle plus discover what to drink in 2020; we spoke to English sparkling wine expert Joel Claustre who has shared his wine wisdom.
A background on English sparkling wine
English sparkling wine is made with the same lengthy and meticulous processes as champagne. It can take anything from 15 months to 2 years to make, which is why the prices of English sparkling are comparable to that of our favourite French fizz. The drink might have grown in popularity over the last few years, but wine grapes have actually been grown on British soil for over 1,600 years. There are now over 700 vineyards across England and 68% of the wine produced across each of them is sparkling. More often than not, the same grape varieties are used as to produce both champagne and English sparkling wine – chardonnay, pinot noir and meunier all grow well in the UK.
What should I try if I’m new to English sparkling wine?
A novice in English sparkling wines should be looking at where the wine originates from. Look out for something with freshness and a taste that lingers on your palate; this is a clear sign of quality of the wine. Prosecco fans looking to try something from the UK might wish to give English sparkling wine try too – and should stick to something sweet.
Why is English sparkling wine having a moment?
Perhaps in the past, the quality in varieties of English sparkling wine wasn’t always consistent – making it a less popular choice. However, sales of English sparkling are now on the up and this is likely due to more consistency in the quality of wines available. A lot of top wine critics are also starting to recognise great English sparkling wines, giving them their rightful place in the spotlight alongside champagne.
10 of the best English sparkling wines to try in 2020
Before you fill up your trolley in the wine aisle, read our expert’s guide to some of the best quality bottles available at the moment.
This youthful vintage Blanc de Noirs comes from Furleigh Estate, which is located off the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. It has plentiful bubbles and light golden tones, and notes of red apple, peach and floral tones also hint of smokiness and complex. Available from The Whisky Exchange (£31.25).
Also from Furleigh Estate, this is an elegant sparkling rosé with steady, fine bubbles. It’s an excellent match with seafood but also with fruit-based puddings. Available from The Whisky Exchange (£30.95).
This delectable English sparkling wine comes from a very chalky part of the UK, on the edge of the Surrey hills. This one is ideal to drink and savour on its own, without a food pairing. Available from Vintners (£21.30).
Probably the biggest player in the English sparkling wine world, Nyetimber is a must-try. The quality of the Classic Cuvee is excellent, with small bubbles that release aromas of fresh melon, lemon and vanilla. Available from Majestic (£32.99).
5. Albury Estate, Classic Cuvee, Brut, Organic, NV, Surrey
This organic sparkling wine comes from Surrey Hills, with the vines growing on the estate of the Duke of Northumberland. It’s ideal as an aperitif, with canapés. Available from Albury (£31.95).
6. Gusbourne, Blanc de Blancs, Brut, 2013, Kent
An elegant sparkling wine from Kent, this 100% chardonnay displays all the toasty aromas of a classic less-aged sparkling wine, and the fruit has a vivid, crunchy green-apple flavour that seems characteristically English. Available from Tanners Wines (£59).
Harrow and Hope’s wines are made by a small, family-run vineyard in the rolling hills of Marlow. This latest release of their signature blend has been created from all three classic grape varieties. Available from Laithwaite’s (£26.50).
A lovely, delicate rose petal pink, this fizz comes with an abundance of fine bubbles. The Pinot grapes bring an abundance of red berry flavours to the palate with great fullness and length. Available direct (£50).
9. Camel Valley, Brut, NV
This fresh and fruity fizz from Cornwall’s largest vineyard is perfect for all celebrations, with a touch of honey on the palate. Available direct (£27.95).
A stylish vintage, top-quality sparkling wine with lots of yellow fruit character and floral notes. Available from Bolney Estate (£30.99).
Take a trip to the UK’s first champagne school
Fancy learning more about the world of champagne and sparkling wine? If you happen to be in London, book yourself into the UK’s first ever champagne school at the St Pancras Brasserie and Champagne Bar by Searcys.
Classes take guests through the world of champagne and sparkling wine with the chance to taste each on offer alongside expertly-paired sharing plates.
About the author
Joel Claustre is both Drinks Ambassador and Account Director for Searcys, and has been hugely instrumental in developing the champagne and beverage offering throughout the company in recent years. In his own words, he’s a “Frenchman in love with English sparkling wines.”
In keeping with Searcys’ pledges for sustainability and locally sourced produce, Joel has been instrumental in promoting English sparkling wines alongside champagnes, allowing guests to discover the delights of sparkling wines from Kent, Surrey and Dorset, which are not readily available in many more traditional champagne bars. Joel and Searcys also champion the sustainable and small grower Drappier, a carbon-neutral champagne house.
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