WWC: So, what is the difference between premium English sparkling and Champagne?
The key difference is the structure and flavour. English wine’s high acidity means they taste crisper and brighter, Champagne is more rounded and creamier.
Because our grapes hang on the vine for a long time before picking, compared to their French cousins, our sparkling tends to have more fruit notes, primarily deeper apple (Bramley apple) and lemon notes, compared to Champagne. Our rosé bubbles tend to have more Pinot Noir flavour, such as strawberry or raspberry.
Pound for pound, English Sparkling Classic Method is a great match for Champagne. I would not say the same for most of our still wines but in terms of our Sparkling wine they offer great value when compared to Champagne.
WWC: In the 2020 Decanter World Awards, our wines took 155 awards, up 7% from 2019, with two judged to be in the top 50 best tasting wines in the world.
We should be proud and supportive of our young wine industry. It has taken just three decades to prove that we have the climate, soils and skills to grow grapes and make world class wine.
Who knows where we will be in another decade, but the number of awards and our world standing will undoubtedly rise. In blind tastings, English Sparkling wines are equal to and will beat price equivalent or more expensive French wine. A great example of this is Redfolds’ Ambriel Classic Cuvée NV 2014 vintage, which received the same score as Krug Vintage Brut 2016. Both achieved a score of 95 points. The Krug costs around £240 whilst the Ambriel is £30.
WWC: The French say they invented the bubbles in our sparklers, and we’ve heard it was the English …. what is the truth?
Historical evidence points to 17th century English wine merchants creating sparkling wine through the addition of a sugar source causing a second fermentation in the bottle.
This was made possible as the English had developed a stronger glass for their bottles and utilised cork stoppers, both of which were not used in France.
It was not until the very late 17th Century or early 18th century that the wine producers in Champagne intentionally made sparkling wine. Tom Stevenson’s ‘Encyclopaedia of Champagne & Sparkling Wine’ delivers a good history of how this method evolved. The recent book by Stephen Skelton MW, ‘The Knight who invented Champagne’, tells the story of Sir Kenelm Digby who developed strong glass bottles, dubbed Verre Anglais by the French, which allowed sparkling wines to be produced and how this gave the English a head start in making sparkling wine.