There was a time not so long ago when a tasting of 80 English sparkling wines would have been both impossible and something of an ordeal. Not anymore. Their success means that the number of producers of English Sparkling Wine has increased dramatically and, amazingly, quality has improved year on year too.
So, when I was invited, to judge these wines recently along with several other Masters of Wine and sparkling wine experts, I jumped at the chance. The wines were tasted blind and there were a few Champagnes thrown in to ensure we were paying attention.
And the conclusions?
* I don’t think any of us found it easy to differentiate between the English wines and the Champagnes, certainly not with regards to quality. Some of the wines had a refreshing “Englishness” about them, but that is certainly not a drawback. And some of the English wines did taste very like Champagne.
* All tasters commented on how consistent quality was. This is highly unusual in this sort of tasting, so very much to England’s credit.
* The average price of the English sparkling wines was just under £25. Quite expensive, of course, but not so bad when one considers that the majority held their own with the Champagnes.
* The wines were of good quality across all styles, white and rosé, vintage and non-vintage, Champagne grape varieties and English/German grape varieties.
* All the established producers did well, as did many of the lesser-known or newer producers.
The Top Ten
1 – Wyfold Vineyard 2009 £24.99
2 – Theale Blanc de Blancs 2007 £24.95
3 – Breaky Bottom Cuvée Princess Colonna 2008 £24.50
4 – Ridgeview Cavendish 2010 £24.95
5 – Wiston South Downs Cellars Bin 3 2009 £23.95
6 – Ridgeview Grosvenor Blanc de Blancs 2010 £29.95
7 – Roederer Estate Quartet NV £21.99
8 – Bluebell Estates Hindleap Rosé 2010 £25
9 – Camel Valley Pinot Noir Rosé Brut 2009 £24.99
10 – Waitrose Blanc de Blancs Champagne NV £23.99
You will find many of these wines available at Sparkling English Wine