Anthony Rose: 'Wiston was one of the stars of this summer's English Wine Producers tasting'

The quality and intensity of flavour coming from the UK's top vineyards makes them at least as good an option as champagne at the same price

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It took four Nebuchadnezzars of Wiston Estate Brut NV for the Queen to name the new P&O Cruises vessel Britannia at Ocean Terminal in Southampton in March. One of the 15-litre bottles was smashed, as profligately as a Formula One shower, across the good ship's bow, but at least the remaining three bottles were put to good use during the inaugural festivities. Just as well because whereas stocks of Formula One's Mumm Cordon Rouge can be replenished almost limitlesly, Wiston is a family affair making relatively tiny quantities of sparkling wine.

Sitting deep in the heart of the West Sussex countryside, Wiston was one of the stars of this summer's English Wine Producers tasting. This is in part because the Goring family employ the talented Dermot Sugrue, who is fast gaining a reputation as one of England's best winemakers. It's also because of the location, which is planted with the champagne grapes pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay. Plus there is the Gorings' considerable investment in the technology to make great bubbles. The fact that its yields are considerably lower than the champagne average speaks volumes about Wiston's explosive flavour.

 

High productivity costs mean that English sparkling wine will never be cheap but the quality and intensity of flavour coming from the UK's top vineyards makes them at least as good an option as champagne at the same price. With its smidgeon of oak spice, mouthfilling mousse, and tart Cox's apple bite, the power-packed Wiston Estate Blanc de Blancs is a divine fizz, as is the 2010 Cuvée Brut. Meanwhile the 2011 Wiston Rosé, with its delicate oak and strawberries and cream fruit, is the finest English rosé bubbly I've yet come across, with the cranberry-filled 2009 Jenkyn Place Sparkling Rosé, the textured, mulberry-rich 2009 Nyetimber Rosé, and the tangy, berry-filled 2010 Ridgeview Rosé de Noirs, all running it close.

In the Blanc de Blancs style, the creamy 2010 Gusbourne is as impressive as ever, while the 2010 Theale Vineyard displays the brioche and biscuity characters of good champagne only with more dry, crisp focus. Among classic blends, the 2010 Nyetimber Classic Cuvée is a fabulous, mouth-filling explosion of English bubbly, while Hambledon's intensely flavoured Classic Cuvée is a fizz to watch, as are the 2011 Hattingley Valley; the distinctively biscuity creamy 2010 Jenkyn Place Brut Cuvée; the orchard fruits richness of the 2010 Wyfold Vineyard; the tangy 2010 Gusbourne Brut Reserve, and the 2009 Digby Fine English.

With two-thirds of England's 6.3 million bottles now in the sparkling camp, our cup of fizz truly runneth over. For prices and stockists, try online resources such as wine-searcher.com

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