With 16 million bottles of wine produced in the UK in 2018 and taking prestigious awards even against the best Champagne, English Sparkling has really come into its own. With record investment in the industry and big Champagne houses planting vines in record numbers in the UK, English Sparkling Wine is becoming big business. So what’s all the fuss about?
Plucky Brits are raising eyebrows
When I first came across English wine a few years back, I smirked at the thought of how decent wine grapes could be grown in sunny England. However, the more I got to know the industry, the more admiration I had of our local tipple. Given the challenges of our marginal climate and variable weather for grape growing, it takes real passion and skill from our dedicated winemakers here. It shows too, with English Sparkling turning heads and winning a growing amount of acclaim from around the world.
The New Champagne
There may be more reasons as to why English Sparkling is described as becoming the New Champagne. Both share similarities when it comes to creating great sparkling wine. Say what you want about “terroir”, but much of the south of England and Champagne share the same chalk soils and the cool climate offers great conditions for producing a crisp, fresh and complex sparkling. Three-quarters of the wine produced in the UK is from the south-east of England (WineGB, 2018) , and right in the heartland here in Mid-Sussex are award-winning vineyards such as Bolney, Bluebell, Kingscote and Ridgeview Estates.
Interestingly, thanks to global warming, it’s predicted that in about 20 years, England will share similar climate and growing conditions as the top vintage years of Champagne, in 1990, 1996 and 2002. Alarmingly, by 2050, Champagne may be too hot to grow the key varieties, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (Nesbitt, 2016) . So, it comes as no surprise that big Champagne houses like Pommery and Taittinger are investing heavily in England, emphasising the confidence in the English wine industry, and really boosting English Sparkling on a global stage.
Still made the old-fashioned way
A surprising amount of time and effort goes into every bottle of English Sparkling. Made in the “Traditional Method”, like they do in Champagne, a special base still wine or “cuveé” made from a blend (or sometimes a single variety) of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. It is then bottled along with some yeast and sugar, to slowly create the bubbles through fermentation. This process can take several years for the wine to mature, but good things come to those who wait. Not only does it create the magical fizz we love and celebrate, the time in bottle allows it to age beautifully and the yeast to break down and release its unique flavour. This gives the wine added complexity and texture only time can give, imparting flavours of toasty biscuit and brioche, yeast, and subtle nutty and savoury notes.
The relatively cool climate of England allows us to produce wine with crisp acidity, with zesty fresh fruit flavours and delicate mineral and pastry hints. Of course, each winemaker will have their own style, but combined with the added complexity that comes from extended aging; this produces the
English Sparkling that’s really turning heads.
Nowadays, modern technology has allowed sparkling wines to be produced far more quickly and efficiently, but none can recreate the complexity and elegance that only skilled craftsmanship and time can give.
The future looks Sparkling
With a record 3 million vines planted this year in England and Wales, and unprecedented investment and growth, the UK is one of the world’s fastest growing wine regions in the world (Wine GB, 2019) . With English Sparkling becoming more popular in restaurants, pubs and your local wine store or supermarket, toast that special occasion or share with friends an English Sparkling, made right on our doorstep!
Get up close & personal with Sussex Wines
Better yet, why not visit our wineries and experience how English Sparkling is made for yourself. Enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the Sussex countryside while trying some award-winning fizz!
How to find us and what to try …
Bolney Wine Estate and Cellar Door
Bluebell Wine Estate
Mill Place Farm, Vowels Lane, East Grinstead, West Sussex RH19 4LG Google Maps Link
Tastings and tours through Spring and Summer
Phone: 01342 327535
Kingscote Blanc de Noirs. This classic sparkling wine offers the supreme expression of English Pinot Noir with a beautifully balanced freshness and lingering finish.
Ridgeview Wine Estate
Fragbarrow Lane, Ditchling Common, Sussex BN6 8TP Google Maps Link
Open 7 days from 11am to 4pm, most days of the year.
Phone: 01444 242040
Ridgeview Bloomsbury. Award winning classic sparkling blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, with notes of citrus, peach and honey. As served at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee!.
Nesbitt, A.M., 2016. A climate for sustainable wine production: Modelling the effects of weather variability and climate change on viticulture in England and Wales. University of East Anglia. Wine GB, 2019. Cheers! A record 3 million vines planted in England and Wales this year makes UK one of the world’s fastest-growing wine regions. [online] Wine GB. Available at: <https://www.winegb.co.uk/cheers-a-record-3-million-vines-planted-in-england-and-wales-this-year-makes-uk-one-of-the-worldsfastest-growing-wine-regions/> [Accessed 22 Jun. 2019].WineGB, 2018. The English and Welsh Wine Industry 2018: A Few Facts and Figures.
Credit for the article - Dan Ma
Dan is currently completing a MSc degree in Viticulture and Oenology at Plumpton College, Sussex. When not studying, he is a wine blogger, photographer and digital marketeer, aiming to share the story of how wine is made to the world. He visits wineries, vineyards and trade events meeting with winegrowers and wine-traders to get to know what’s behind the label. You can find him on Instagram at @dan.the.wine.man