Break out the British bubbles
THE SOUND OF corks popping will be louder than ever this Christmas – sparklers are as popular as I can remember, whether it’s party prosecco or grandes marques champagnes. But the most exciting fizz right now is English – its fresh, whistleclean style enticing more and more wine lovers. I’ve got a clutch of them for you to enjoy.
Other trends include the rise of lower- and no-alcohol drinks. At last, the drivers and teetotallers have more interesting bottles to open! I’ve included some grown-up softies and made note of a loweralcohol white. And gin remains hugely popular – especially high-quality, small-batch, usually British labels. Brown spirits such as whisky and rum are catching up though, and this winter will be enjoyed neat, over ice, as well as in cocktails in varied and imaginative ways. Anything goes, then.
Cheers, everybody! Prospects for the English wine scene are blossoming, thanks in part to a beautiful summer. The wines from this year are not with us yet, of course, but there are still some dazzling homegrown sparklers on the shelves this season, including some more readily available on the high street (I’ve listed two).
Others take a bit more tracking down, even purchasing at the cellar door or online from the winery, but I urge you to do so – the quality is now indisputable.
Denbies Chalk Valley Sparkling Wine NV, Surrey, England Made from six grape varieties for a crisp, mouthwatering fizz with a bite of crunchy green apple. A decent introduction to premium English sparkling at a keen price. Morrisons, £16, down to £15 until 1 January
Langham Classic Cuvée 2014, Dorset, England An exquisite English sparkler, dry but rich with complex layers of citrus and pineapple, light toast and creamy almonds. langhamwine. co.uk, £25, and independents
Marksman English Sparkling Brut Blanc de Blancs 2014, Sussex, England Produced by the excellent Ridgeview winery for M&S, a crisp and whistle-clean fizz with English orchard flavours of apples and pears. A lively match for seafood. Marks & Spencer, £26
Black Chalk Wild Rose 2015, Hampshire, England
A new rosé from grapes grown on chalky downs, beautifully crafted for a pale-orangey-pink hue, streaked with rosehip and blackberry fruit and with tingling acidity. blackchalkwine. co.uk, £40, and independents
Rathfinny Blanc de Blancs 2014, Sussex, England
The launch of Rathfinny’s new sparklers was a highlight of 2018; this maiden release blanc de blancs is highly sophisticated, 100 per cent chardonnay with fresh citrus and gorgeous rich creaminess. oxfordwine.co.uk, £36.95