In the early 1990s, when Nyetimber and Ridgeview first planted Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier in the South Downs of Kent and Sussex, they were mocked. Nobody quite trusted these varieties would really ripen at 51-degrees latitude. The pioneers, however, had done their homework. They counted on climate change and were strategic on how to farm, paving the way for England to do what Champagne has done for centuries: Make sparkling wines using bottle fermentation and lees aging.
Since then, serious cash and know-how has flooded England’s bubbles game. Today, refreshing flutes of English fizz—with its hallmark thrilling acidity—are trendy at London bars and restaurants. In blind tastings, some English bottles have even bested Champagnes. And because the vines are relatively young, the best is surely yet to come.
English Fizz Facts
In a climate as marginal as England, vineyards need to be sheltered, well-drained and south-facing to ripen grapes. The best are dotted around Kent, Sussex and Hampshire, counties long renowned for their apple orchards. Years like 2012 are touch and go, but 2009 was a stunning harvest. Those sparkling wines are now hitting shelves. And 2014 promises to be another great year.
Britain’s Best Bubbles
Nyetimber 2009 Classic Cuvée
Gorgeously creamy apple fruit and a long, biscuity finish. Sheer class.
Gusbourne 2007 Blanc de Blancs
Dreamy top notes of lemon curd on toast, with a wonderfully textured palate.
Balfour 2010 Brut Rosé
Floral overtones yield to ripe wapple and strawberry flavors. Creamy mousse.
Ridgeview 2010 Fitzrovia Rosé
Unapologetically hedonistic bubbles burst with fresh citrus and apple notes.