It took two Americans to recognize that the future of English winemaking lay in sparkling wine. In 1988, Stuart and Sandy Moss planted classic Champagne varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Until then, English vineyards had been dominated by early-ripening varieties like Bacchus and Seyval Blanc, which were bred for the country\u2019s marginal climate but struggled to find a market.\r\n\r\nFast forward three decades, and you\u2019ll find a thriving, fast-growing industry that makes world-class sparkling wines. The fact that Champagne houses Taittinger and Pommery have planted vineyards here is a solid endorsement. Even Queen Elizabeth has vines in Windsor Great Park.\r\n\r\nSince 2000, vineyard acreage has quadrupled to 8,600 acres, planted mostly to top sparkling varieties Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. More than two-thirds of the country\u2019s production is sparkling wine, which capitalizes on the briskness of this truly cool climate.\r\n\r\nSite selection is key, and most vineyards are in the southern counties of Kent, Sussex and Hampshire. Dorset and Cornwall in the southwest, as well as Essex and the Chiltern Hills, flanking London, also have suitable spots.\r\n\r\nToday, there are 164 wineries in England. Read on to learn about some of the pioneers and how they continue creating excitement for the country\u2019s effervescent future.\r\n\r\n\r\nCherie Spriggs \r\nNyetimber, Sussex\r\nWhen the Mosses from Chicago bought this ancient Sussex estate as a retirement project, they unwittingly set England on a new winemaking path. Their decision to focus exclusively on sparkling wine production marked the birth of today\u2019s thriving industry.\r\n\r\nThe couple planted Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier in 1988 and released their first traditional-method sparkling wine nine years later. They quickly received great acclaim.\r\n\r\nIn 2006, Nyetimber was purchased by Dutch businessman Eric Heerema. The next year, he hired Cherie Spriggs as chief winemaker, and her husband, Brad Greatrix, as winemaker. The pair have since blazed a trail in terms of quality.\r\n\r\nTheir multivintage Classic Cuv\u00e9e, a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, has become a global calling card for English sparkling wine.\r\n\r\nThe exacting standards exhibited by Spriggs are grounded in scientific rigour that allows her and her husband to push boundaries. Time and again, the winery has turned heads and set new standards with stunning wines they had silently worked on for years.\r\n\r\nAn example is the Pinot Noir-dominated 2009 Tillington Single Vineyard, released in 2013. There\u2019s also the long-aged prestige cuv\u00e9es 1086 from the 2009 vintage and 1086 Ros\u00e9 from 2010, both released in 2018, named after the year that the Nyetimber estate was founded.\r\n\r\nThe label uses only estate-grown fruit, which Greatrix calls \u201can essential part\u201d of Nyetimber\u2019s ethos. Annual production, which depends on highly variable yields, ranges roughly from 500,000 bottles to just over a million.\r\n\r\nSpriggs describes her winemaking style as \u201cinert,\u201d meaning that by using only stainless steel, \u201cwe really let the wines be what they can,\u201d she says. \u201cThat way, their Englishness really comes out.\u201d Nyetimber\u2019s style is creamy and sonorous.\r\n\r\nThese complex, ageworthy wines show what the classic Champagne grapes are capable of in England. But Nyetimber is no boutique operation. With 808 acres of vineyards across Sussex, Kent and Hampshire, it\u2019s a huge player.\r\n\r\n\r\nCharlie Holland \r\nGusbourne Estate, Kent\r\nIn 2004, Andrew Weeber, a South African orthopedic surgeon, purchased the ancient Gusbourne Estate in Appledore, Kent. He had read about English sparkling wine in the Financial Times, did his homework on site selection and then created a business plan. His career had taught him that \u201cthere\u2019s always room at the top,\u201d so he kept quality foremost as he planned and planted.\r\n\r\nThe first Gusbourne traditional-method sparkling wines, a Chardonnay-Pinot blend and a Blanc de Blancs, were released in 2010. Winemaker Charlie Holland has been on board almost from the start. He loves Chardonnay, and more than half of the vineyards are planted to this variety.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt is the most transparent grape, with that salty, saline quality, a certain drive and energy,\u201d says Holland, \u201cAcidity is key, we should embrace acidity. It\u2019s our calling card.\u201d\r\n\r\nMalolactic fermentation and long lees aging round out this freshness. The wines are vividly brisk yet creamy expressions of southern England\u2019s climate. They shine with sinuous slenderness and astonish with their depth.\r\n\r\nLate-disgorged releases show how well these wines age.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe only make vintage wines, and we only use our own grapes,\u201d says Holland. \u201cWe\u2019re not trying to make perfectly symmetrical wines every year. Vintage variation should be celebrated.\u201d\r\n\r\nInitially, plantings were just in Kent, but since 2013, vines have also been planted in Sussex, so there are 230 acres now. This move has enabled Gusbourne to turn over a new leaf for English still-wine production. The grapes for its single-vineyard Boot Hill Pinot Noir and Guinevere Chardonnay are both sourced there, and they lead the way for still wines made from these key varieties. For now, production is 90% sparkling, to make sure that \u201conly the best wines get made,\u201d says Holland.\r\n\r\n\r\nRichard and Kirsty Goring \r\nWiston Estate, Sussex\r\nPip Goring arrived at Wiston Estate, deep in the West Sussex countryside, from South Africa as a young bride in 1972. Her husband Harry\u2019s family had farmed the chalky hillsides since 1743, yet Pip had to wait 34 years for her vineyard dream to come true.\r\n\r\nThe couple planted their first 16 acres of vines in 2006 and they\u2019ve since expanded to 25 acres. Stars aligned when an irrepressible Irishman, Dermot Sugrue, presented himself as a winemaker, keen to work with grapes grown on chalk.\r\n\r\nBeginnings were humble. The wines were made in an abandoned turkey barn with a second-hand Coquard press from Champagne, but they were brilliant from the start. Financial pressure also meant that Sugrue offered contract winemaking at Wiston, which afforded him an enviable overview of English-grown fruit.\r\n\r\n\u201cI\u2019ve had the pleasure and the privilege of making different sparkling wines from different regions in England,\u201d says Sugrue, who also makes his own cult label, The Trouble with Dreams. \u201cI continue to learn so much because this is a fledgling industry. The quality of what we can achieve in England in terms of sparkling wine is extraordinary. The vines are only just getting into their stride. With the long, cool growing season, you get this beautiful delineation of flavor.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe next generation, Kirsty and Richard Goring, now run the estate, but Pip\u2019s enthusiasm still informs everything. Sugrue continues to craft some of England\u2019s most remarkable wines.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe\u2019ve put our love into the roots of these vines,\u201d says Pip, who adores the \u201csharp, fresh, clean\u201d taste of the wines.\r\n\r\nThe vintage-dated estate wines are imbued with richness from Sugrue\u2019s judicious use of oak and extended lees aging. The nonvintage wines, made with some bought-in fruit, are crisper and full of vigor.\r\n\r\n\r\nTamara Roberts \r\nRidgeview Estate Winery, Sussex\r\nWhen Mike and Christine Roberts, a pair of information technology professionals, spoke to their bank manager about planting a vineyard, the idea was received with laughter. Not deterred, they started Ridgeview in 1995 and hand-planted their first vineyard in the South Downs.\r\n\r\nToday, the winery produces approximately 400,000 bottles of traditional-method sparkling wine, and it has done more than any other to broaden the category\u2019s appeal on home turf.\r\n\r\nRidgeview bottlings have been stocked in English supermarkets since 2002, bringing traditional-method English sparkling wine to the mass market. The Roberts\u2019 idea of naming their wines after London neighborhoods like Bloomsbury, Cavendish and Fitzrovia connects the fizz with England.\r\n\r\nIt\u2019s a family business with Christine and Mike\u2019s children, Tamara and Simon Roberts, now at the helm as CEO and head winemaker, respectively. Ridgeview owns about 17 acres of vines that surround the winery. Still, most of its grapes are sourced from long-term contract growers across England. This allows them to maintain production despite the unpredictable climate that battles spring frosts and variable yields.\r\n\r\nThe brand was also the first to export English sparkling wine. Simon\u2019s wife, Mardi Roberts, says that English fizz has seen an \u201camazing transformation.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cWhen we first designed our labels, we even hid the fact that the wine was English because at the time, England had no reputation at all, so it was printed really small on the label,\u201d she says. \u201cToday, it is what we are most proud of.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe wines are crisp, fruit-driven sparklers just made for celebrations. The vintage-dated, limited-release Blanc de Blancs is made from the Chardonnay on the home block planted in 1995.\r\n\r\n\r\nHattingley Valley\r\nHampshire\r\nHampshire resident and ex-lawyer Simon Robinson founded Hattingley Valley in 2008. Emma Rice, the head winemaker, has been there from the start. She helped conceptualize the eco-optimized winery and oversaw planting of its 27 acres of vines.\r\n\r\nThe first traditional-method sparkling wines were released in 2013. To supplement the vineyard, Rice buys fruit from Essex and Berkshire. She\u2019s a fan of Pinot Meunier.\r\n\r\n\u201cGrown on Hampshire chalk, Pinot Meunier is a completely different beast to that grown in Kent or Essex,\u201d she says. \u201cWe seem to get a lot of apricot flavors from our Pinot Meunier.\u201d\r\n\r\nShe also champions the use of Pinot Noir Pr\u00e9coce, an earlier-ripening sibling of Pinot Noir, which brings exquisite berry flavors to her sparkling ros\u00e9. Last year, she turned Pr\u00e9coce into a still ros\u00e9 that proved to be a huge hit.\r\nHush Heath Estate\r\nKent\r\nHotelier and property developer Richard Balfour Lynn does nothing by halves. In 2001, when farmland surrounding his home in Kent was for sale, he set out to craft England\u2019s first premium traditional-method ros\u00e9.\r\n\r\nHe and his wife, Leslie, planted the first vines in 2002. Just 10,000 bottles of the now-famous Balfour Brut Ros\u00e9 were made and released five years later; success was immediate. It was served in the first-class cabins of British Airways, and it was the official wine of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.\r\n\r\nToday, there are 200 acres of vines, and the line now includes white and ros\u00e9 cuv\u00e9es called 1503. The extra-dry Leslie\u2019s Reserve rounds out the sparkling offerings.\r\n\r\n\r\nBolney Wine Estate\r\n Sussex\r\nFounded in 1972, Bolney Wine Estate focused initially on still wine. Sam Linter, the head winemaker and daughter of founders Janet and Rodney Pratt, today grows Pinot Noir and Chardonnay alongside varieties like Rondo, Dornfelder, Bacchus and Pinot Gris.\r\n\r\nThe annual production of 200,000 bottles is split equally between still and sparkling wine, sourced from 104 acres of estate vineyard.\r\n\r\nLinter joined the family business in the 1990s. The impending turn of the millennium made them think that it was time to make a sparkling wine.\r\n\r\n\u201cAt the time, Plumpton [England\u2019s only viticultural college] did not teach making sparkling wine,\u201d says Linter. She credits Ridgeview\u2019s Mike Roberts with showing her the basics.