What to drink this week
English sparkling wines
These fine sparklers are bursting with the flavours of an English country garden, enthuses Harry Eyres
Buds were already visible on the vines when I visited a bunch of East Sussex vineyards specialising in sparkling wine in late March. The trend towards earlier springs may be desirable in all sorts of ways—and uplifting to the spirit— but it also brings danger in the form of spring frosts, which can wipe out whole vintages. Still, the mood at the vineyards was positive: English sparkling wines have made great strides and the best can stand comparison with all but the very finest wines produced across the Channel in Champagne, often on similar chalky soils.
Why you should be drinking them
Comparison with Champagne is, in fact, a mistake. The great virtue of English sparkling wines—and English wines in general—is their beautiful, delicate florality; they smell and taste of English gardens, fields and hedgerows.
What to drink
Although many English vintners have success with the Pinots—noir and Meunier—my favourite sparklers have a preponderance of Chardonnay. Berry Bros English Brut 2013 (£25.95; www.bbr.com), from Gusbourne’s Appledore vineyards, has a pale, greenish colour and is very delicate, but also persistent, in the mouth. Wiston Cuvée 2013 (£32.95; www.wistonestate.com) is richer, with pale-gold colour and an enticing, biscuity nose. Bolney Estate Blanc de Blancs 2010 (£110 per six in bond; www.justerinis.com) has a most attractive nose that is floral, but also buttery and briochey—it’s rich, complex and fresh on the palate. Also fine is Ridgeview Bloomsbury 2014 (right, £27.50; www.henningswine.co.uk), which, with 58% Chardonnay, is nicely balanced and satisfying.