One great debate in the wine world relates to sparkling wine. More specifically: Which region produces the world’s best sparkling wine? The traditional answer is surely Champagne, and when it comes to the top end of the market that’s probably true. Both Cava and Prosecco are constantly improving in quality, with prices that can be mere fractions of vintage Champagne. That’s not to forget about other Spanish sparklers like Rueda Espumoso, Italian bubbles like Franciacorta, French crémants, and many more besides. And that’s just old world countries. The sparkling wine market is complicated and exciting, but if there is one region anywhere in the world that you really should be paying attention to, it’s England.
English sparkling wine
Yes, really – England. Better known perhaps for its ale or gin, there’s more to it than that. It may surprise you, but English sparkling wine is a thing and it’s a thing that any wine lover should really know about! The majority of English wine is sparkling.
Why you need to know about English sparkling wine
- It’s good. It’s sometimes great, in fact. At a recent blind tasting amongst professionals in Paris, English sparkling wine was voted as better than Champagne in two out of three categories. That’s a big deal!
- It’s growing. In many ways, English sparkling wine is growing. Its reputation is ever increasing, there is more and more investment in new vineyard plantings and winery investments, and it is still a relatively young industry. Over the next few years, you can expect English fizz to solidify itself as a force to be reckoned with in the sparkling wine world – so start paying attention now!
- It’s really quite like Champagne. In terms of climate, soil composition, grape varieties and production methods, there are many similarities between Champagne and English sparkling wine. Even top French producer Taittinger Champagne has recently invested in English vineyard land.
- It’s generally well priced. This may well change over the coming years, though for the most part English sparkling wine is cheaper than Champagne. Right now, this may be attributed in part to the fact that vineyard land is cheaper in England than in Champagne. In the coming years this could change, as more and more producers want to get in on the act and land becomes more and more scarce.
So, that’s all very interesting, but despite its growing popularity, distribution of English sparkling wine is still in its early stages and nowhere near as advanced as its Spanish or French equivalents. In the meantime, we’ve picked out a few bottles that you can get your hands on right now!
What to buy instead of English sparkling wine
Champagne is always good, and well-priced Champagne is even better.
- Delamotte Brut is a very respectable bottle of bubbly with solid scores behind it (90 points from Wine Spectator and 88 from Robert Parker), and it won’t cost you a fortune!
- Step it up a notch with the 100% Chardonnay R.H. Coutier Blanc de Blancs. It’s a great expression of the Blanc de Blancs style, from a top producer and with high critical acclaim to boot: Robert Parker gave this 93 points and Vinous gave it 92.
- For those occasions where you need instant brand recognition without breaking the bank, Piper-Heidsieck Cuvéé Brut is your friend. A well-known and highly esteemed luxury brand and a 94 point score from Wine Spectator – even the best English sparkling wine would find that hard to beat!