What to drink this week

English sparkling wines

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country Notebook -

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.

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