- August 2, 2015
Chloe’s second article is about England’s bubbles! Brilliant!
On a recent visit back to the homeland I was pleasantly surprised to see the sheer amount of English Sparkling Wine available at shops and supermarkets. I’ve only been living outside of the UK for a year and a half, but in this short timeframe a wonderful thing has happened, my boozy countrymen have cottoned on to the fact that not only does Brit sparkling wine exist, it’s also good! Just five years ago, it would have been unheard of to see half a dozen Brit fizz brands competing with the likes of Champagne, Prosecco and Cava for shelf space, but now it’s looking quite commonplace. British sparklers are winning awards and accolades up the wazoo and parts of England, such as Sussex and Kent, are even being coined as the “new Epernay.” There’s no doubt about it, Britain is having a wine renaissance and bubbly is its beating heart. Christopher Merret would have been delighted! If you don’t know who Christopher Merret is click here.
I think it’s safe to say that Brits have always had a love of bubbly. It’s the grey Isle’s token bevy of choice with 120 million bottles consumed each year, ranging from Champagne and Prosecco, to Cava, Cremant and beyond. Brits can’t get enough of the stuff, but until very recently, the last thing on any Briton’s mind would have been drinking a local sparkler. And who could blame them! If you look at Britain’s winemaking track record you’d be met with some dire examples of bland, lackluster swill bred from obscure, unpronounceable German varietals and unfortunate hybrids. Couple that with the fact that up until recent years the climate was too cold and the winemaking practices far too primitive to produce anything of a quaffable nature. The late, great Peter Ustinov summed it up best: “I imagine hell like this: Italian punctuality, German Humor and English Wine.” Although I am far from an expert on Italian timekeeping and German wit, I can confidently say that Ustinov’s negative feelings towards English wine were quite understandable…up until now that is.
The British wine industry has seen a lot of changes over the past few decades. As Britain’s climate gradually began to warm (eh hem…climate change!) quality grape growing became possible and the potential for producing premium sparkling wine was realized. Vignerons swapped their dodgy vines for traditional Champagne varietals (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) and winemakers tightened up their methodology. Fast forward a few decades and the industry is flourishing. Two thirds of Britain’s wine industry is now focused on sparkling wine production. Although good examples of sparkling wine can be found throughout England and Wales, the South East of England has become the hot spot for top quality “champagne-like” fizz. Just like its famous neighbor (Champagne is only 90 miles away), the South East benefits from chalky soil and a cool climate – 2 key ingredients needed for a vineyard destined to make high quality sparkling wine. I’ve been fortunate enough to try a number of bottles from the likes of Ridgeview Estate, Digby, Gusbourne and Nyetimber and they are all incredibly impressive. Quite like Champagne, the best examples offer elegance and complexity, depth, concentration, refreshingly high acidity and creamy bubbles.
Today, over 5 million bottles of British Sparkling Wine are being produced annually. Now don’t get me wrong, that’s only a drop in the ocean compared to the likes of France, Italy and Spain, but production and domestic consumption are at an all-time high and international distribution is already starting to take place. All of this gets me very, very excited! It’s about time the world had another “British Invasion,“ so move over Moet and budge up Bollinger, there’s a new bubbly on the block and it’s charming palates left, right and skeptic!
Chloe’s Brit bubbles of choice:
Nyetimber Classic Cuvee
Digby Reserve Brut
Gusbourne Rose Brut