Battle of the Bubbles

For those of you still depressed by how comprehensively England were thrashed by New Zealand in the cricket World Cup, the following tale may offer some cheer.

On the same day as the cricket, a blind tasting took place in both Wellington and London that pitched some of the best English sparkling wines against the best from New Zealand. In New Zealand, where most of the judges were kiwis, or honorary kiwis, the result was a tie. In London, where most of the judges were English and were in no mood for sportsmanship, the English cruised to a comprehensive victory.

The Teams

NZW_logo II






  1. No.1 Family Estate Cuvée Blanc de Blancs Marlborough NV
  2. Tohu Rewa Blanc de Blancs Marlborough 2011
  3. Deutz Marlborough Cuvée Blanc de Blancs 2010
  4. Daniel Le Brun Blanc de Blancs Marlborough NV
  5. Hunter’s MiruMiru Marlborough NV
  6. Osawa Prestige Collection Méthode Traditionelle Central Otago 2009
  7. Huia Brut Marlborough 2009
  8. Quartz Reef Méthode Traditionelle Central Otago 2009
  9. Seresin Moana Blanc Marlborough 2009
  10. Lindauer special Reserve Brut Cuvée
  11. Nautilus Cuvée Brut Marlborough NV
  12. Akarua Rosé Brut Central Otago NV

Engliish wine producers








  1. Wiston South Downs Blance de Blancs NV
  2. Coates & Seely Blanc de Blancs NV
  3. Bluebell Hindleap Blanc de Blancs 2010
  4. Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs 2007
  5. Plumpton The Dean Brut NV
  6. Hambledon Classic Cuvée NV
  7. Sugrue Pierre South Downs 2011
  8. Wyfold Brut 2010
  9. Henners Brut Reserve 2010
  10. Ambriel,  English Reserve Demi Sec NV
  11. Camel Valley White Pinot 2010
  12. Hush Heath Balfour Brut Rosé 2010


In general, for Richard at least, the New Zealand wines were more dilute and failed to deliver either the flavour or verve that one would associate with the finest sparkling wines. The English wines, in contrast, showed good depth of flavour and longer, more complex aftertastes. Indeed, if there was a criticism, it would be that some were almost too richly flavoured. Most pleasingly of all, the English wines were highly consistent – quite an achievement in such a young industry. RB


Richard’s favourite New Zealand Sparkler:

Quartz Reef Méthode Traditionelle Central Otago 2009


Richard’s favourite English sparklers:

Sugrue Pierre South Downs 2011

Hush Heath Balfour Brut Rosé 2010

Hambledon Classic Cuvée NV


Man of the Match

Man of the Match












I know nothing about cricket other than how it affects the mood of the men in my life. My father, husband and sons were pretty downcast on Saturday and only slightly cheered to hear the results of the Battle of the Bubbles.

I found much to enjoy in the New Zealand team (wines not cricketers) with some of the wines delivering seamless balance. I was stumped by a wine in the middle order as it scored well in New Zealand but was definitely a dead ball here – I wonder if I should have asked for the opinion of a third umpire in the form of Jamie Goode, or a replacement bottle. I was, however, bowled over by the Quartz Reef, like Richard, and thought the Huia Brut Marlborough 2009 was well on strike; the Seresin Moana Blanc Marlborough 2009 was a runner, too. And Nautilus was a peach. The New Zealand team was varied in style and skill but showed that the country can produce sparkling wines with substance.

NZ tasting
















The second innings opened with Wiston South Downs Blanc de Blancs NV which scored a ton, well, a lot anyway, and was Man of the Match for me. The English team all scored well, the Hambledon knocking most of the English judges for six and in fact bat the highest score of the day. The Balfour Rosé, even as twelfth man, delivered a beamer with all its fruit-salad appeal and first-class elegance. The English wines smashed powerful, complex wines with each one contributing above average scores and deserving of its place in the team.

A couple of things worth noting was that no one was caught out by which team was which even though the wines were served blind. English sparkling wines definitely have a typicity and identity. And lots of character. On a personal and more serious note, I find that the wines with greater balance and style are, at the moment, those which are multi-vintage. As English wine production grows, more will be available for blending delivering ever more thrilling wines. Exciting times.


It should be mentioned that making sparkling wine is not particularly New Zealand’s sport where England is most definitely regarded as a significant player. I wouldn’t like to think about the outcome of a Sauvignon Skirmish, a Clash of Cabernets or a Pinot Parley!


Watch the youtube video below to see Oz Clarke sporting natty stripy cricket garb. Oh, and to find out how the tasting went down in New Zealand and his judicious views on the wines.


Thank you to Chris Stroud of New Zealand Winegrowers and Julia Trustram Eve of English Wine Producers for putting on a very interesting tasting. And for the photos.


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