Forget prosecco and champagne – drinkers are increasingly choosing English sparkling wine when they want to celebrate in style.
The rise of homegrown fizz has been unstoppable in the last decade. There are now more than 100 wineries in the UK with more than two-thirds of the wine produced in England being sparkling.
Many of the best sparkling wines have attracted favourable comparisons with champagne. In some southern counties, the soil and climate are almost identical to their world-renowned neighbour over the Channel.
Some even use the same varieties of grapes as the famous French fizz – typically chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.
“English wines are coming of age and are increasingly well regarded,” explains Clive Barlow, master of wine at the Buy Britain Wine Club.
He adds, “Their growers and producers have built a great understanding of the unique climate in their vineyards, the application of viticultural knowledge to get the best out of the vines and winemaking savvy and techniques.”
In fact, the quality is now so impressive, we struggled to pick the standout sparkling wines for our list, but the ones below just nudged ahead on the taste test.
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Jenkyn Place blanc de blancs 2015, 12%, 75cl
A real English success story, Jenkyn Place is close to the chocolate-box village of Bentley in the North Hampshire Downs and is owned by the Bladon family. They moved there in 1997 but only started planting vines in the estate’s former hop fields when Simon Bladon tasted English sparkling wine at a furniture auction in 2003. They harvested their first grapes two years later and have since made top-notch sparkling wine with a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.
However, the long, dry summer of 2015 has produced the estate’s very first blanc de blancs, made with 100 per cent chardonnay, and it was well worth waiting for. Made by resident winemaker Dermot Sugrue, this elegant, complex wine has an abundance of fresh fruit aromas and rich citrus flavours but with a pervading creaminess on the palate. It’s a dream to pair with food including chicken dishes, light cheeses and smoked salmon, but we’ll happily take a glass all on its own to appreciate this stunning sparkling properly.
Louis Pommery England brut, 12%, 75cl
Don’t worry, we haven’t come over all confused and slipped a champagne on the list. Vranken-Pommery was the first of the major champagne houses to launch an English sparkling wine, and they harvested the first grapes from their vineyard in Hampshire last autumn. While we have to wait a little longer to sample the wine made from those, Louis Pommery have collaborated with other local vineyards to produce this sparkler in the meantime.
Made using the traditional method with carefully selected chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes, this lively fizz is pale yellow in colour with a distinctive noise of honeyed stone fruits and refreshing lemon and lime, with a well-balanced mineral finish.
Adnams English sparkling classic cuvee, 12%, 75cl
Don’t stress about food pairings with this vibrant and refreshingly bright wine. With fine bubbles and tangy flavours of apples, it’s easy to sip on its own when only fizz will do. The non-vintage blend of 81 per cent pinot noir and 19 per cent chardonnay was made using traditional methods and aged on lees (yeast) for at least 30 months. Golden in colour with a slight blush tint, it has a gentle creamy finish with light biscuity notes, all for a ridiculously reasonable price.
Tinwood blanc de blancs 2018, 12%, 75cl
Art Tukker and his wife Jody took over Tinwood lettuce farm in West Sussex from his father in 2005. Within the first year, he had swapped the unprofitable plants for vines, and their first commercial harvest followed in 2010. Since then, the winery has expanded to offer tasting tours and overnight stays in three plush on-site lodges, while their latest 2018 release is Tinwood’s finest so far.
Made with 100 per cent chardonnay, this blanc de blancs has spent a minimum of 18 months on the lees and 5 months on the cork to improve its flavour. The delicate pale gold wine is now a zesty delight, with masses of tropical fruits and a lingering, balanced finish. Serve with a seafood platter for the perfect summer’s afternoon.
Morrisons the best English sparkling brut vintage 2010, 11.5%, 75cl
This corker of a wine has something of a mysterious past. Presented under Morrisons’ own premium label, this fizz is made by the unheard-of Rolling Green Hills, though wine experts have deduced this may in turn be owned by the world-renowned Nyetimber estate. That could explain this excellent 2010 vintage, which has been stored in cool cellars for eight years to develop deliciously fine bubbles and complex biscuity flavours.
Made with a traditional blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, the wine is packed with surprisingly rich flavours of toast and stewed apple. With a fresh finish we think this would pair perfectly with a roast chicken dinner or salmon fish cakes. It’s outstanding value for a ten-year-old wine of this quality but if you want to spend even less, we’re also fans of the supermarket’s non-vintage version costing a bargain £17.
Sharpham summer sparkling, 12%, 75cl
If you could bottle the taste of summer, there’s a good chance it would taste a lot like this. Made with 100 per cent estate grown red grapes, this fun, fruity wine comes from the beautiful Sharpham winery, set on the banks of the River Dart in Devon – home to a south-facing 10-acre vineyard, cheese dairy and lovely alfresco café. This well-priced fresh pink wine has a gentle spritz and sunny red berry and clotted cream flavours that would go a treat with a charcuterie platter or hunk of goat’s cheese. Add a bottle to your next picnic and thank us later.
M&S balfour classic cuvee brut, 12%, 75cl
The Hush Heath estate is a name to know for English wine lovers. Home to the Balfour-Lynn family, the 400-acre estate was originally a working farm but now visitors can wander its apple orchards, ancient woodlands and wildflower meadows before tasting its award-winning wine. This lively fizz made for M&S is a great example of their balanced style, with vigorous citrus and apple flavours and a fresh acidity. It would be a match made in heaven with good old fish and chips.
Kinsbrook vintage cuvée mini case 2014, 12%, 75cl
Kinsbrook Vineyard arrived on the English wine scene in style with this cuvée, one of three debut wines from the Sussex producer. Founded in 2014, the vineyard is run by the youngest vineyard owner in the country, who was inspired to plant vines on his family’s third generation farm after travelling through New Zealand’s wine country. The site now features a café in a converted horse box and offers tastings and vineyard tours.
Kinsbrook’s first batch of wines includes a limited production bacchus and pinot gris, but the vintage cuvee is the show-stealer. Created by award-winning winemaker Dermot Sugrue, the sparkling wine has a tantalizing crispness with brioche and orchard fruit aromas that make it seriously drinkable.
Harrow & Hope brut reserve NV, 12%, 75cl
Buckinghamshire’s unstoppable Harrow & Hope was named England’s Winery of the Year in 2019, and its signature pinot noir-based blend of sparkling wine is a multiple award-winner too. It’s produced by respected winemaker Henry Laithwaite, who started winemaking in Bordeaux and Australia before returning to Marlow in 2010 to plant his own vineyard on a sunny, south-facing slope in the Chilterns. Light gold in colour with a deliciously fine mousse, it’s complex and creamy in the mouth with a toasted brioche aroma and a ripe, fruity finish. Pop a cork and serve with canapés to impress any guest.
Bolney Wine Estate cuvee noir 2014, 12.5%, 75cl
If you’re looking for something a little different, this sparkling red is an elegant winner. Unusually, it’s made using the traditional method from 100 per cent dornfelder red grapes and has the lightness of fizz with the flavours of red. It’s chock-full of red stone fruits on the palate and has a hint of smoky spiciness to finish that really sets it apart from white sparkling wines. Served chilled, the robust flavours make it a great match with stronger tasting foods, and it would go down a storm at a barbeque or with a bitter chocolate tart after a hearty roast.
Artelium makers rosé 2015, 12%, 75cl
A new name in English wine, Artelium is a boutique wine estate in Sussex surrounded by bluebell woods with sweeping views across the South Downs. Planted in 2018 and 2019, the vineyard benefits from the area’s rich clay soil and long growing season, and Artelium have a second vineyard in Madehurst with chalk soil to provide a second terroir to add complexity to their wines.
With plans to collaborate with other winemakers in the future, their first two releases are by celebrated winemaker Dermot Sugrue, better known as the brains behind Jenkyn Place wines. The bright rosé is our favourite, with its startling intense colour, clean, mineral nose and a creamy acidity on the palate. Its full-bodied flavours mean this rosé doesn’t need to be confined to summer sipping either, but would go down just as easily with roast lamb.
Tesco Finest english sparkling wine, 12%, 75cl
Produced for Tesco by the award-winning Hush Heath Estate, this sparkling wine is a rare find at under £20. A blend of hand-harvested chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes, it’s produced in the traditional method and tastes far more expensive than it is. The pale gold wine has a refreshing crispness, moreish apple and citrus flavours and delicate brioche notes with an elegant finish. We’d enjoy it in the garden on a sunny day with a huge bowl of strawberries and cream for an indulgent treat.
Hattingley Valley blanc de blancs 2014, 12%, 75cl
When city lawyer Simon Robinson gave up his day job to plant his first vines in 2008, English wine was little more than a novelty. Fast forward a decade and his Hattingley Valley winery in Hampshire is now one of the UK’s most successful, exporting its sparkling wine to 16 countries and boasting a clutch of awards to its name. Its blanc de blancs has already won several of these and this 2014 vintage is another wonderful wine as the year’s mild spring and sunny summer created ideal growing conditions.
Made with 100 per cent chardonnay grapes, it has a balanced, creamy texture and is aged on lees in the bottle for five years to give it a rounded complexity. Rich with citrus and honey on the nose, this pale golden wine has mineral flavours and brioche notes on the palate, with a refreshing acidity that will definitely keep you going back for more. It will continue to improve over the next five years and keep well for at least ten, but we’re not sure we could manage to wait that long to open it.
Nyetimber cuvee chérie NV, 12%, 75cl
Nyetimber were one of the first names to put English sparkling wine on the map for drinkers around the world when they released their first blanc de blancs back in 1997. Since then, the West Sussex estate has become celebrated by wine experts, with a packed trophy cupboard testament to its top-notch bubbles made from 100 per cent estate-grown grapes.
This cuvee chérie is another first, a delicately sweet demi-sec originally designed to complement British desserts. Made with 100 per cent chardonnay, it has a refreshing minerality, balanced citrus flavours and a fresh finish that pairs wonderfully with gently spiced Chinese, Japanese and Thai dishes as well as puds. But for a classic British combination, we’d mark a special occasion by serving it alongside a traditional afternoon tea.
Radlow Hundred English brut sparkling, 11.5%, 75cl, pack of 2
An illustration of an ice skater is an unusual sight on a bottle of sparkling wine, but Radlow Hundred like to do things a little differently. The family have been farming the Herefordshire countryside for eight generations in a region once known as the Radlow Hundred, an administrative area that appears in the Doomsday Book. Now their small-batch wines pay tribute to the local community and their farm’s history, with distinctive illustrations on every label.
This brut sparkling commemorates the freezing winters of the 1800s when locals could skate on the River Wye. A blend of pinot noit, seyval blanc and chardonnay, this light golden wine is thankfully a year-round treat, with free-flowing bubbles, a grapefruit and honey nose and fresh melon and apple notes.
The verdict: English sparkling wine
You won’t go far wrong with any of these sparkling wines, an impressive tribute to the expert winemakers currently producing British bubbles. We’d choose the Jenkyn Place blanc de blancs 2015 for our next special occasion, but we’ll be upgrading our usual prosecco to the fantastically priced Morrisons the best English sparkling brut vintage 2010 from now on. Though if the sun’s out, the fruity, pink Sharpham summer sparkling is our new go-to.
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