Thursday, 19 November 2015

3 Brilliant, Lesser-Known English Sparkling Wines

How much do you know about English sparkling wine? With the festive season fast-approaching, now is a good time to learn - and perhaps you can serve up from English bubbles at your Christmas party.

Most English sparkling wine is made from the same grapes as Champagne: chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. Much of the soil that English vineyards are planted on is chalky and well-drained - perfect for sparkling production. 

Generally the grapes are hand-picked to minimize any stalk influence and to preserve the quality of the grape. Then, in the winery, the grapes are processed using the Methode Champenoise (the traditional Champagne method, where by the secondary fermentation occurs in bottle), or as English producer Coates and Seely are calling it; Methode Britanique (love it!)

In fact, English sparkling wine production has a lot in common with the guys over the pond in Champagne. The main difference being that producers here are not restricted by such rigid rules as they are in Champagne. This basically means that we can produce old world style sparkling with a new world attitude, and our own English flair.

Here are a couple of crackers that I would highly recommend getting your hands on.

Castle Brook Classic Cuvee 2009
Grapes: 51% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir, 19% Pinot Meurnier
Alcohol and sugar: 12%, 7g/l RS

This wine has taken a while to make. With four and a half years on lees no wonder it is so complex.

This being said, it is still relatively fresh, crisp and youthful, with some developed baked apple and autolytic (bready) characteristics coming through. It has the richness of a panforte cake with a subtle mineral and lemony acid hit to balance it all out. Big, tingly mousse and golden in colour. Hard to share…

Coates and Seely Brut Reserve NV, ‘Methode Britanique’
Grapes: 65% Chardonnay 35% Pinot Noir
Alcohol and sugar: 12.5%, 10g/l RS

The grapes for this come from a pretty special plot of land producing some seriously high quality grapes. Winemaking wise, no oak is used at any point, as they do not want to loose the beautiful ‘grapey’ quality.

There is a great balance between crisp acidity, grape and grapefruity citrus, with fine and delicate crunchy apple tones and a juicy tang. It’s dry and refreshing, perfect on it’s own or could be best mates with a plate of oysters. They have really embraced the ‘champagne’ style but with their own distinct English stamp.

Hattingley Valley Blancs de Blancs 2010 
Grapes: Chardonnay
Alcohol and sugar: 12%, 9g/l RS

Unlike Coates and Seeley, some of the juice used for the Hattlingley Valley bubbles has been but into barrel for it’s primary fermentation. This gives the wine a lovely brioche and cashew backbone with a touch of toast.

It’s a rich style with balanced doseage (a sugar solution added into the sparkling wine at the end of secondary fermentation) with some fruity acidity and a dash of something floral. The richness, with a touch of sweetness, work together with the acidity to give you a pretty delicious treat. Kind of like an apple pie using fresh, tart Pink Ladies (them be apples…).

So when you’re buying you are buying for Christmas this year don’t over look the our English sparkling as there are some pretty special things happening outside of London amongst the vines.

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