Friday, 16 June 2017

The English Sparkling Wine Show

If you're a regular reader of Vinspire, then you will probably be well aware of the excitement that surrounds English Sparkling Wine. The facts have been known about for a while, the soils in the south-east of England that bear the same chalky characteristics that made Champagne famous, the yearly increase in temperatures due to climate change that are making conditions get better and better for growing those hallowed grapes of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. This has resulted in English Sparkling Wine taking a whole heap of awards in wine tastings (some even above Champagnes themselves...) and has seen some Champagne Houses starting to look to acquire vineyards in the UK.

What's in a name?

In fact, probably the only thing that English Sparkling Wine hasn't yet got sorted for itself is a nice, snappy name! If you use the words Champagne, Prosecco or Cava then most people immediately comprehend what you are talking about; not only does it explain a regional location, but it also practically becomes a brand in its own right. Champagne speaks of opulence and celebration, whereas Prosecco speaks of summer drinkies in the sun. "English Sparkling Wine" isn't elegant or pithy as a phrase, indeed there have been some moves for "Sussex Wine" to be granted an official designation under EU regulation (although Brexit may scupper  this...); you can read more about this in this Decanter article. The only problem with this is that not all English Sparkling Wine comes from Sussex, indeed you do get some Sparkling Wine in Wales (and as such you can't even really talk about "English" Sparkling Wine)!

The English Sparkling Wine Show

Still, with all the excitement about English Sparkling Wine, I was delighted to be invited to the first English Sparkling Wine Show at The Hoxton Hotel in Shoreditch a couple of weeks ago. This event brought together a selection of some of the premier producers from around the country and put them under one roof. This was a really exciting tasting as it allowed us to spend proper time comparing the different producers and seeing the breadth of styles, but also savour the high quality of these drinks.

Most bottles of English Sparkling Wine retail at between £25 - £35 this puts them in the same price bracket as NV offerings from recognised brands such as Moët or Laurent-Perrier. This tasting confirmed what I have long suspected - a vintage English Sparkling Wine from a good producer represents absolutely better quality and Value for Money than a NV Champagne.

The following producers were featured at the show:
  1. Bolney Estate (Haywards Heath, West Sussex)
  2. Hindleap (Furner's Green, East Sussex) - our own Rachael was lucky enough to visit this vineyard recently, which you can read about here
  3. Digby's
  4. Langham (Dorchester, Dorset)
  5. Smith and Evans (Langport, Somerset)
  6. Hoffmann and Rathbone (Mountfield, East Sussex)
  7. A'Beckett's (Devizes, Wiltshire)
  8. Herbert Hall (Marden, Kent)
  9. Black Dog Hill (Ditchling, East Sussex)
  10. Danebury (Stockbridge, Hampshire)
  11. Blackdown Ridge Estate (West Sussex)
  12. Henners (Herstmonceux, West Sussex)
Each of the producers had something interesting on show, but I had a couple of favourites that I particularly enjoyed:

2014 "Primordia", Blackdown Ridge Estate: a blend of 51% Pinot Noir, 39% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Meunier, which has a refreshingly elegant profile of those warm, toasty notes coupled with some lively stone fruit. On tasting, I found it to have a nice balance to the wine, refreshingly acidic, but with some generous green apple bite. This was a properly refined wine.

2013 Black Dog Hill Classic Cuvee: Still has a slight hint of that biscuity element, but this is a more fruit-driven wine with plenty of crunch on it, flavours of lemon and gooseberry gave it a brilliance. On the mouth, what I found particularly pleasing was the long and balanced finish; a nice aperitif wine.

Herbet Hall: I enjoyed both their Brut (their premium wine) and their rosé; in particular the rosé (with its higher proportion of Pinot Noir) had a lovely tart delicateness to it with flavours of cranberries and redcurrants.       
If you are yet to discover the joys of English Sparkling Wine then I heartily recommend that you try them out. Most of the major supermarkets now stock labels such as Chapel Down and Hush Heath, whilst names like Nyetimber are going from strength to strength. However, there are many small up and coming vineyards such as those that were featured at this tasting, plus they're all situated in beautiful parts of the world - why not pay them a visit?

Thank you to Fabio at Mousseux Anglais and Su-Lin for the invite to the event and for organising.

Also thanks to Luca, some of whose photos are used above, with permission.

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