England is famous for its pudding, its beers, its fish and chips… and now more and more for its sparkling wine! Thanks to the global warming (there is always a brightside), the production conditions to produce the sparkling wine in England are really getting better and the sparkling wine made in England has the wind in its sails.
In a nutshell, Wine in United Kingdom (mainly England and Wales), it is 135 wineries (about 2000 hectares (multiplied by 2 during the last 7 years) and about 6.3 million of bottles in 2014. Out of which, 70% are sparkling wine. See below the main regions.
English sparkling wine is going through a real revolution. It is in 1955 that the first bottles were produced and sold in England. However, due to the climate at this time, the producers used to prefer grapes varieties, such as bacchus and muller-thargau, which get matured quite quickly and then unpropitious to quality wine. It is only since the 80’s that some winemakers have included the champagne’s grapes varieties. Furthermore, in nearly 30 years, the cultivated surfaces for wines in UK have been multiplied by 3 (from 430 to 1400 hectares in 2011). In 2010, for the first time, more than 50% of the harvests were used for the sparkling wine.
English sparkling wines are not the first ones to try to compete with the champagne. There are also the italian spumante or prosecco, the spanish cava and frexeinet,..to mention just a few. But, where the english sparking wine distinguishes itself from the other ones is that, as champagne, it is made of the same grapes, i.e. pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay. Furthermore, its other major asset is the same soil and climate than the french region. These give a huge advantage compared with the italian and spanish wine producers.
In addition to this quantitative progression, there is also the qualitative one. The english sparkling wines are getting more and more recognised: 14 gold medals at the International Wine Challenge (IWC) in 2014 (vs 5 in 2013!). How come, you may ask? Having the same soil and climate than champagne producers helps but that does not explain everything. The producers have got the technology right but also they are getting a better understanding of the specifities that terroirs can give. Indeed, the english producers have not got the experience than their champagne peers nor their production capacity (3 millions english wines vs 300 millions champagne bottles in 2011) but they learn quick and well. Now, their main challenge is to manage the marketing sell. Champagne is still THE reference for the sparkling wine. Champagne is synonymous of luxury, has a ruthless and relentless marketing and a strong level of brand protection.
English sparkling wines producers have a big challenge in their hands but also all the ingredients to get into this narrow market of prestigious sparking wines…Good luck!
To give you some ideas, see below a selection:
- Nyetimber Brut Classic Cuvée 2009 (£27.50)
- Ridgeview Blanc de Noir 2010 (£31.95)
- Pebblebed Sparkling White (£24.95)
- Knightor Sparkling Rosé (£33)
- Fortnum’s English Sparkling Wine Camel Valley (£26.50)
- Sharpham Sparkling Pink 2010 (£25.95)
- Herbert Hall Brut 2012 (£27.30)
- Gusbourne Brut Reserve 2010 (£27.95)
- Henners Brut 2010 (£27.25)
- Carr Taylor Brut 2008 (£21.99)
- Balfour 1503 Rosé NV (£29.98)
- Hoffmann and Rathbone Rosé Réserve 2011 Brut (£38)
- Chapel Down Blanc de Blanc 2009 (£26.99)
- Furleigh Classic Cuvée 2011 (£28.50)