Drinks expert Henry Jeffreys brings you his favourite bottles of English sparkling wine, a growing genre of drink that can be enjoyed like champagne, prosecco or cava.
Gosh, there are a lot of English sparkling wines out there. More brands than you can shake a stick at. To try to narrow the field down a bit for this taste test, I’ve only included wines made in the champagne style ie. from French grapes like chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier (and a little pinot blanc), and bottle-fermented.
We are now starting to see cheaper English sparkling wines made from Germanic grapes like bacchus and with bubbles created in a tank as with prosecco but I'll save them for another time.
Of the champagne-style wines, £20 seems to be about the minimum price that it’s worth buying English. Growing grapes in this damp cold country is not easy despite warmer summers, bottle fermentation is complicated and remember you need to keep the wines for around 18 months before they can be sold. You’re not going to get rich quickly making sparkling wine.
The sweet spot seemed to be around £30 though I have included some cheaper and one seriously fancy bottle that gives grand cru champagnes a run for their money.
Overall quality is high. There’s much less of the tooth enamel-stipping acidity of old. Don’t get me wrong, these are still bracing wines, but with most the fruit was beautifully ripe.
There were, however, quite a few faulty bottles, usually oxidation or off smells created by light damage. Be aware of clear glass bottles that have been sitting around too long. They are especially susceptible.
I was particularly impressed with the rosé wines; these get their colour from extended skin contact with red grapes. Whereas many rosé champagnes aren’t particularly distinctive, some of the English ones were fantastic with lots of pinot noir character despite the fashionable pale colours. These are really versatile food wines.
The established names all performed well with companies like Chapel Down and Hush Heath making delicious wines at all price levels. There were also some exciting new names like Roebuck Estate that I was particularly impressed with.
In fact, I liked so many wines that I have chosen more than ten. The future is looking bright for English sparkling wine. Read on to discover my pick of the best English sparkling wine.
Best English sparkling wine to buy
Kit's Coty Blanc des Blanc 2014 (£37.95)
This is from Chapel Down’s premium range made from a single vineyard in Kent. It’s all chardonnay, and shows lemons and green apples mingling with rich patisserie notes. Just gorgeous.
Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2015 (£59)
From one of England’s finest estates, this is an extremely serious wine. Initially the acidity is quite firm, like fine white burgundy, and then deliciously creamy with toasty yeasty notes. Worth keeping if you have the patience.
Simpsons Flint Fields Blanc de Noir 2016 (£45)
From the couple behind Domaine Sainte Rose in the Languedoc. Made entirely from pinot noir grown in Kent, this is fresh and citric on the nose with a touch of honey, there’s fresh strawberry fruit on the palate with an underlying rich meatiness.
Balfour 1503 Rosé (£20)
Made at the Hush Heath estate in Kent which makes a lot of supermarket wines as well as some more expensive things. This shows what good value English sparkling wines can be. With its jolly cherry red fruit, it’s impossible to resist.
Black Chalk Classic 2016 English sparkling wine (£39.95)
The second vintage from this up-and-coming Hampshire producer. Unusually the wine is aged in wooden barrels. There’s gorgeous peachy fruit here, lean and racy, and then fattens out towards the end. Very moreish.
Roebuck Estates Classic Cuvee 2014 (£35)
A new one to me and by God, it’s good. The nose is like marmalade with bitter Seville orange notes, lots of ripe fruit on the palate too with a full nutty finish. Close your eyes and you could be drinking Pol Roger.
Squerryes Brut Reserve 2014 (£32)
This is for those who find English wines a bit lean. It’s big and rich with flavours of cooked apple and pastry, like a tart tartine, which fills out into notes of hazelnut and yeast extract. By the way, the name rhymes with cherries.
Henners Brut NV (£29.99)
Always one of my favourite producers and not just because of the name. It’s in a rich hedonistic style that will appeal to Bolly-lovers. Think cooked apples, crème brûlée and a long toasty finish. Great value for the quality too.
Ambriel Classic Cuvee NV (£28.95)
A producer based in the South Downs in West Sussex. It smells of caramelised apple with a touch of Marmite, take a sip and there’s firm lemony acidity with beautiful delicate little bubbles and a yeasty finish.
Bolney Cuvee Rose 2017 (£29.99)
Don’t be fooled by the pale colour, this is meaty wine. With it’s dark cherry flavours it tastes almost like a red wine. For the money, I’d rather drink this over most pink champagnes.
Davenport Limney 2014 (£27)
It’s not easy growing organic grapes in England’s damp climate but Davenport manages it with style. The fruit is superb with notes of lemon peel and crunchy green apples. I imagine this would be incredible with shellfish.
Ridgeview Marksman 2015 (£25)
Ridgeview is one of the big boys, not only making its own wines but many for smaller growers. This is cracking value for money. The fruit is like sherbert and time in bottle has tamed the acidity and introduced yeasty toasty notes.
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This review was last updated in March 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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