Anthony Rose: 'English fizz has come of age in the year of the Diamond Jubilee'
English fizz doesn't need me to bang the drum for it, given that everyone from Raymond Blanc to Alan Sugar have been in on the act ad nauseam. Hardly a day goes by without a report of English bubbly beating champagne at its own game – yet further evidence that English fizz has come of age in the year of the Diamond Jubilee.
The most significant recent event was a blind tasting, the so-called Judgment of Parsons Green, organised by Master of Wine Stephen Skelton on 1 March, which gathered together 90, yes 90, England and Wales-grown sparkling wines. The three champagnes stealthily inserted, Sainsbury's Blanc de Blancs from Duval-Leroy, Nicolas Feuillatte Rosé NV and Lanson Black Label NV, came in 19th, 35th and 88th. Among English names dominating the top places were Camel Valley, Bolney Wine Estate, Breaky Bottom, Chapel Down, Gusbourne, Hush Heath, Meopham, Plumpton College and Ridgeview with Coates & Seely the best newcomer.
From a quarter of a million bottles at the millennium, England anticipates production of four million bottles in three years time. That would represent one in 25 of all sparkling wines we drink, including champagne. This critical mass is now being bolstered by the supermarkets, notably Tesco, with its zesty 2008 Chapel Down Classic Cuvée English sparkling Wine, £21.99, Marks & Spencer's appetisingly tangy Sparkling English Brut NV, £20, and Waitrose, whose array of fizz from Hush Heath, Nyetimber, Camel Valley and Ridgeview is unrivalled. Laithwaites, too, have teamed up with Ridgeview to produce their fine South Ridge Brut, £19.99, and a crisp South Ridge Blanc de Noirs, £19.99, Laithwaites (laithwaites.co.uk).
Two of the most successful styles are blanc de blancs made entirely from the chardonnay grape and rosé, blending chardonnay with the red champagne grapes pinot noir and pinot meunier. In the former camp, Coates and Seely Blanc de Blancs, Britagne, £25.85 (£24.55 by the case), coatesandseely.com, displays rich bubbles cut by lemony acidity. From Andrew Weeber's Appledore vineyards in Kent, the Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs, £29.99 (£179.94 per 6), Armit (armit.co.uk), displays a rich orchard-fruit finesse. In the rosé department, keep an eye out for Wales's 2008 Ancre Hill Sparkling Rosé, £24.99, cheerswinemerchants.co.uk and Richard Balfour-Lynn's salmon-pink 2009 Hush Heath Rosé, £35.99, Waitrose; the latter, with its elegant tang, as fitting a tribute as any to the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
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