If you are like me, you noticed that English sparkling wine is now more widespread than ever. Prices are the same as what good quality Champagne cost, but is it worth it?
Short history lesson
History of English sparkling winemaking goes as far as the 16th century. However, there is no significant production of it until the 20th century.
In 1988 Stuart and Sandy Moss started a vineyard at Nyetimber with Champagne grape varieties. The first wine that they released was in 1997, and it won an IWSG gold medal.
In the 90s more English sparkling wine was produced from producers like Ridgeview and Chapel Down.
In 2017 French Taittinger planted its first vines in Kent.
Today most of the wine produced in England is sparkling (68% in 2017). So you can say that English and Welsh’s winemakers are specializing in sparkling wine.
English and English regional wine
These terms are protected terms that means that the wine is under PDO and PGI classification. (more about PDO and PGI here)
English wine (PDO) allows six grape varieties for English sparkling wine (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir Précoce, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris)
English regional wine (PGI) allows around 90 grape varieties.
But be aware, not all producers choose to follow PDO or PGI guidelines. So they are not allowed to use PDO and PGI names on the bottle.
Is it better than Champagne?
If we are talking about the quality than the PDOs rules are as strict as you would expect for Champagne-style sparkling wine. The method used in PDO and PGI English wines is the traditional method (more about the traditional process here). And the yield is limited. English sparkling wines are widely regarded as top in the world.
So what should I look for when buying one?
If you are looking for top quality, try the English sparkling wine that has “English protected designation of origin” on the label.
Sometimes winemakers use “Product of England” on the label. It doesn’t mean that the wine was made under PDO or PGI standard though. But it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t either.
I think that if you stick to well-established brands like Nyetimber, Gusbourne, CamelValey, Chapel Down, Ridgeview and Woodchurch you should be fine.