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There's the New World of wine, and then the New New World: English Sparkling Wine is on the rise. This National Champagne Week, wine expert, Amelia Singer selects her favourite bubbles from our own green pastures...
Which country comes to mind if you think of "wine"? For most, I imagine France, Italy, or perhaps even the USA these days, probably dominates. We all know, however, that the world is a-changing and so should our concept of wine and where it comes from. English wines are on the rise, and it's my opinion, along with a fair few of the worlds top wine experts, that they are the new frontier of wine making – even beating out top champagne houses in sparkling wine competitions.
English wine has had a pretty unfair wrap since they were first introduced to the market if you ask me. For years now we have produced a limited but exemplary selection of wines at a price point that - whilst not competing with the mass production of France - was largely affordable. Fast forward to 2023 and there is a plethora of wines now on offer from our own shores, and as production has increased the prices have dropped too. English wine is now affordable and world class and I dare anyone to turn their nose up at them. Here are my picks...
The Prosecco Alternative: Silver Reign Brut NV from Silver Hand Estate, Kent £17, www.silverhandestate.com
Taste: Baked apple ripeness combines with a refreshing grapefruit acidity and a lingering honeysuckle finish. The soft, rounded bubbles make this a dangerously moreish aperitif.
Story: Silver Hand in Kent are defining the rules of what English sparkling wine is having established the largest single vineyard in England – covering 500 acres and also entirely organic!
USP: English Sparkling wine made using the same method as Prosecco! Prosecco is still a darling in the bubbles world but has become rather ubiquitous. For bubbles which are softer on the palate, easy to appreciate on its own and for something a bit different why not surprise guests with this English delight.
The Wine Trade's Best Kept Secret: Morrisons The Best English Sparkling Brut Vintage 2010 £27, Morrisons
Taste: A gorgeously complex English sparkling which has spent eight years on lees – that's almost over three times the minimum for a vintage Champagne. The extra time on yeast cells gives savoury brioche and lemon curd stuffed croissant notes on the palate followed by a seductive, buttery roasted hazelnut finish.
Story: This is a multiple award winning wine. The experts are all curious where Morrisons get their grapes from but this wine is the deal of the century for supermarket buyers!
USP: The best value vintage English sparkling wine you will find on the market. Fact!
The Discerning Hedonist: Rathfinney Wine Estate Classic Cuvee 2018 Sussex £31, Liberty wines – Discounts on bulk orders www.libertywines.co.uk
Taste: Intensely rich red apple fruit is encased with salted almonds and a vibrant acidity. The creamy richness is partly due to the Pinot Noir dominant blend, 30 months on lees and the fact it is from a fantastic vintage.
Story: This husband and wife team, Mark and Sarah Driver, are some of the most ambitious vineyard owners in Sussex. The fruit is grown on the South Downs National Park, where the soils are clay loam over free-draining chalk, giving the wine an impressive vervy structure and finesse.
USP: You will never find this in a supermarket and you will never find a Non Vintage Sparkling. These producers pride themselves on excellent fruit which they can showcase on their own every year. And once you have tried the Classic Cuvee, you really would be missing out on not tasting the elegant yet personality filled Blanc de Blancs or Blanc de Noirs.
Most Versatile Wine: Ambriel Huzzah Rose NV West Sussex Corney and Barrow £32.35, www.corneyandbarrow.com
Taste: Huzzah by name and hoorah by nature! The 15% Pinot Meunier gives an enticing floral aroma, whilst the rich raspberry and strawberry fruit come from the Pinot. Cordial like in intensity, this is a fun wine which complements any celebratory occasion and gastronomic accompaniment. Whether you are toasting with cake, canapes, autumnal hearty fare – this can't fail to delight and keep the party going!
Story: Another couple, Wendy and Charles Outhwaite, previously a QC and a banker, left their careers in London in 2006 to pursue their dreams of making their own English sparkling wine. They now run a stunning single vineyard, planted with classic Champagne varieties and using the same clones from Burgundy!
USP: This bottle just calls out for celebrating – even the cork has 'Huzzah' written on it! It also is only 11% alc which makes it perfect for all day celebrations!
Amelia Singer is launching her first ever podcast entitled ‘Ameliarate Through Wine’ where she interviews a range of celebrities pairing their personalities to wines. You can follow Amelia on Instagram @amelias_wine