My Top English Sparkling Wines 2019
So over a month ago I was in England, with one purpose and one purpose only. How good is English wine? If I am being honest I was expecting to be disappointed, I was expecting to go, to find some positives and write about how maybe in 5-10 years the wines would be palatable. As most of those who know me, I won't hold back and have burnt bridges speaking my mind, and unlike other wine critics who give everything 100 points, I am not and will never be like that. I like to be honest and to the point. I do sufficient research to know the wineries to go to, and the wineries to skip. When I go to a country though, that is a different matter, there is no hiding. So what did I learn?
I have previously written that England has been seriously producing wine for around 20-30 years. In the last few years, along with the changing climate, the amount of new vineyards being planted has been exponential. Their soil is similar to that of Champagne, they learn from Champagne, but do not copy Champagne. This learning is producing some phenomenal wine, so is this the wine industries biggest secret? Possibly, and I believe that the Champagne region are already worried.
For friends in the UK, walk around the supermarkets (grocery stores), have a look at the sparkling wine section, what do you see? Huge discounts on Champagne. Why? Because the Champagne houses are loosing market share to English sparkling wine. Is this due to quality or pride? My feeling: Both! A NV Champagne is around 40 GBP, with an English Sparkling wine around 30-40 GBP. But when you start looking into Vintage Champagne you will be paying up of 100 GBP. That is a lot of money, and so it makes you stop and think.
When I published my report on English wine, I received emails from readers asking me if I was serious, if I really was suggesting that English wine could stand up to Champagne, if I was biased and If I even knew what Champagne tasted liked.
As my report mentions, I am not suggesting we all stop buying Champagne. Champagne has more history than most wine regions in the world, and a lot of the larger producers do a fantastic job in producing both Vintage and Non-Vintage Champagne, that really showcase how Champagne should taste. Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Laurent Perrier, Bollinger, Pol Roger and Ruinart are some of my personal favourites. There are also some smaller Champagne houses as well which do an equally good job. Every English winery told me that they are not in competition with Champagne, yet I see them as in direct competition. I recently took part in a vintage Champagne tasting from the 2007 year (I know, not the best year), however I found that the wines lacked freshness and even trying some 2009s I got the same feeling. The wines tasted did not include my favourites highlighted above, but other Champagne houses. My point here, is that we should not just buy Champagne blindly without looking at the competition. Having tasted many different Champagnes and English sparkling wines in recent months, I have concluded that there is a market for English Sparkling wine, and in many cases these wines can stand up against some much higher pricer bottles of Champagne.
Another question I have been asked are the differences in terms of texture and style of English Sparking to Champagne. This is a very difficult question to answer, however if I had to make a statement. English sparkling wine has slightly higher acidity, making it more food friendly, without loosing any structure. Which from a Sommeliers stand point is very important to note, and maybe gives English sparkling wine a nudge when suggesting it in the dining room. So wherever you are in the world, go in search of these hidden gems and you will hopefully be as impressed as I was. For those in Quebec, Canada. Just send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org and I will see what I can do
So with that in mind, my Top English Sparkling Wines are as follows
Charles Palmer Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs 2014 - 94 points
A nose full of citrus peel, spring flowers, stone fruit and a little wild grass, a wave of delicate and yet persistent mousse first hit the palate, this then evolved into a delicate and soft palate of yellow apple, Asian pear a little brioche along with a silky, rich and elegant finish. Has to be one of the top Vintage sparkling wines in England. Really enjoyed the finish on this. 3 years on lees.
Charles Palmer Brut Rosé 2015 - 94 points
Very impressive Rosé, very fruit-driven with aromas of freshly picked strawberries, ripe cherries and blackcurrants, redcurrant, the palate was really like a fresh summer pudding with a soft mousse, richness and great well-balanced acidity finishing with a long, silky elegance. Made from Burgundy clones and from the Saignee method, 2 years aged on lees. I love the finish on this, so delicate. Wow!
Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2013 - 93 points
Delicate, silky and elegant Blanc de Blanc and my favourite of the Gusbourne wines tasted today. Aromas of Meyer lemons, peaches and yellow pear on the notes along with soft and silky palate with a delicate mousse, light brioche, dried fruits and sweet spices filled the palate. The finish was round and very elegant and this can stand up to Vintage Champagne. Unlike a lot of English Chardonnays, there is little in the way of greenness either on the nose or the palate. Aged for 42 months. Very good!
Chapel Down Chardonnay Kit's Coty Estate Blanc de blanc 2014 - 93 points
So much better than the 2013. The nose had lots of stone fruits and citrus, bubbles were significantly more refined with good persistence, the palate had freshly picked yellow apple, a little fresh wild grass, biscuits along with wet stone and a long elegant finish.