There are undoubtedly many things that come to mind when you think of England—red buses, high tea, Downton Abbey—but sparkling wine is probably not one of them. We’d like to argue that maybe it should be. Bubbles from this foggy country have never been more popular and well-made than they are today.
The British have been making wine for hundreds of years, and there are over 3,000 acres of vineyards planted throughout the country today. But it wasn’t until the early 1990s that Britain’s sparkling wines truly began to take off. The southeastern counties of Sussex and Kent are home to a cool climate and chalky limestone soils, very similar to France’s Champagne region. Nyetimber’s 1992 and 1993 vintages made headlines with the many awards and medals they won, and soon after other producers flocked to the area and began making high quality, traditional method (fermented in the bottle) sparkling wines. The wines were originally made with hardy German varieties like müller thurgau, which could survive the wet and cold conditions of an English winter, but producers began planting the traditional Champagne grape varieties—pinot noir, chardonnay and meunier —in the 1980s, and that’s what you’ll find in most English sparklers today. These wines are clean, crisp, and loaded with interesting fruit and mineral flavors.
Sadly, English sparkling wine is not yet available in the U.S. We hope it will be one day soon, but until then, we’ll just have to plan a trip to England to check it out. Some producers we recommend tasting if you get the chance are Nyetimber, Chapel Down, Ridgeview and Breaky Bottom.
Have you tried an English sparkling wine? Tell us about it below.
Photo by Sarah Stlerch, "My lunch view. A glass of English blanc de blanc to boot!"