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Sipping Bubbles in Southern England by Meredith Griffin

Sipping Bubbles in Southern England by Meredith Griffin

As Miss Bubbles, my international exploration requires a stop for sparkling...

...And after my WSET studies I’m fascinated by the sparkling wines of England. Since bubbles often act as my aperitif, it’s the most fitting way to kick-off my summer wine journey!

While it’s considered a new world wine country, it most definitely is an old world. In fact, it may very well be the Britts we need to thank for Champagne. Historians recently revealed it was an Englishman in the 17th century who was responsible for documenting the traditional sparkling wine method, which is the technique used to make Champagne. Additionally, they were the ones who invented a glass bottle that could withstand the pressure created by the build-up of carbon dioxide to make sparkling.

Sir Winston Churchill was known for his devotion to Champagne. And Brits consume more Champagne than any other county. Thus, it seems obvious they should be producing their own sparkling wine. In fact, vineyards for sparkling wine grapes were planted in the 1980’s, but not until very recently have these sparklers begun gaining recognition throughout the world.

This is partially due to the late, famous wine critic and organizer of the historic Judgment of Paris, Steve Spurrier. He brought attention to the region when his own vineyard started producing sparkling wine in southern England, although it took many years before being recognized.

Now, the bubbles of England are said to rival some of the best Champagnes, and as someone who is also willing to sample for the purpose of research, I totally get it.

But why?

So, here’s where I’m going to get a little nerdy. Most vineyards throughout the world are planted between 30-50 degrees latitude. Any lower or higher and the weather conditions are too extreme for grape growing. Well, that was until global warming. The vineyards in England are just above 50 degrees latitude, slightly higher than Champagne, which means it’s a very cool climate making it hard for grapes to fully ripen.

However, the thing is, sparkling wine grapes do not need to ripen as fully as grapes for still wines. This is because the riper the grapes the higher alcohol potential in the final wine. Ideally, sparkling wines limit their alcohol to maximum of 12.5% Abv so less ripe grapes are needed. (If you want to learn more about how sparkling is made, you can read my blog here or listen to a brief bonus episode of the MC Winecast).

Another contributing factor to these wines rivaling Champagne, is that much of the soil in this region is similar to the chalky soils of Champagne, which many winemakers attribute to what gives Champagne its distinctive aroma and flavor profile.

Additionally, the majority of English sparkling wine is made with the same combination of grapes used in Champagne—Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, although additional grapes varieties are allowed—Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir Précoce.

And lastly, the traditional method that is used in Champagne to produce the wine is employed to make these English sparklers.

These bright bubbles entice your senses with their aromas of pear, apple, citrus and nutty brioche!

Very few of England’s sparkling is exported, thus you are more likely to find these bottles in your local wine shop rather than the grocery store. A few of my faves that I’ve discovered in the states are Hattingly, Nyetimber and Winston Estate. While they won’t garner as high of prices as many Champagnes, these bubbles may not fall into the “any day that ends in y” sippers.

The most notable food of England I know is fish and chips, which would certainly pair well with their bubbles.

Cheers!

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