The unusual supsects. From red sparkling traditional method to pink Pet Nat.
Unusual Sparkling Wine From England
We are about to dive into the weird and colourful world of unusual Sparkling Wine from England. But first, a quick reminder at how great we are at the classic style. England is one of the world’s greatest regions for producing traditional method sparkling wine. The chalk slopes of Hampshire, Sussex, and Kent mirror those just across the channel in the Champagne region of northern France. A huge amount of expertise and resources have poured into our sparkling wine industry in the last 10 years. With these factors combined, our Champagne-style sparkling wines are now regularly beating the real thing in blind tasting competitions.
Yet, unlike much of Champagne, England’s wine industry is not a monoculture. In the UK, we are still at the very beginning of our winemaking journey. And with this youth comes a dynamism and a willingness to experiment that marks our industry out as one of the world’s most exciting.
All of which means that when it comes to sparkling wines of England, it’s not just about the traditional method. And it’s not just about the ‘noble’ varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir. English Quality Sparkling Wine is world-beating. Yet if you’re interested in more unusual flavours and textures, in sparkling wine there is plenty of choice.
Without further ado, here are 5 unusual Sparkling Wines from England that showcase our country’s diversity:
Lost in a Field “Frolic” pét-nat 2021
Around 70% of UK vineyards were planted in the last 10 years. However, grapes have been grown on a smaller scale in our country for many decades. Prior to the sparkling wine boom, most vineyards were planted with Germanic cross varieties. That’s because they were considered more suited to the cooler and damper climate of the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
Tim Wildman MW of Lost in a Field is on a mission to rediscover these ‘heritage’ vineyards. Many of which now contain highly mature vines, which produce beautifully concentrated fruit. The Frolic Pét-Nat is one of the results. It’s a wonderfully eccentric, and completely delicious, blend of 14 such grapes, the oldest of which was planted in 1972.
It’s brilliantly well-made, both delightfully fresh and easy-drinking, and also beautifully fruity and full of English hedgerow berries. At just 9.5% alcohol, you could easily quaff a bottle with a friend and still get up for work the next morning.
Blackbook Winery GMF 2019
Blackbook is an urban winery based under a railway arch in Battersea. It’s home to some of England’s most critically-acclaimed, classically-styled still Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. Yet what’s the point of owning an urban winery if you can’t use it to innovate? And that’s exactly what owner and winemaker Sergio Verrillo has done with GMF. This is an early release, ‘Col Fondo’ method sparkling wine made from 100% Seyval Blanc grown in Oxfordshire.
As in the traditional method, Col Fondo wines undergo a secondary fermentation that gives them their bubbles in bottle. But unlike Champagne, the yeast cells (or ‘lees’) are left in the bottle, making the liquid cloudy, but giving the benefit of longer lees ageing. The 2019 GMF is light, fresh, and superbly easy-drinking, with notes of elderflower and pink grapefruit.
Bolney Estate Cuvée Noir NV – An Unusual Red Sparkling English Wine.
Considering that Bolney is one of the UK’s most established commercial wine estates, we think it’s fantastic that they’re also pushing the experimental envelope with this delicious sparkling red, made from 100% Dornfelder grapes.
Made using the classic Champagne method, yet deeply purple-coloured, the Cuvée Noir blends tradition and innovation. Bursting with aromas of black cherry and blueberry, in the mouth it is round and creamy, fruity with a dash of sweetness, and finishes with a hint of cinnamon and cloves. Match this with a charry barbecued venison sausage for English summer perfection.
Yotes Court ‘LiveLoveLaugh’ Sparkling Pinot Gris 2021
Outside of the ‘big three’ traditional Champagne varieties, Pinot Gris is the most planted noble variety in the UK. So, it’s surprising that more producers haven’t tried using the grape to produce a single varietal sparkling wine. You’ll be surprised too, when you taste this wonderfully easy-drinking, fruity sparkling wine.
Aged on the lees for just 6 months (rather than the Champagne-regulation 18 months), the wine retains its youthful, aromatic, ripe pear and lemon-curd aromas, and its crisp, yet fruity flavours. Like an English take on a good quality Cava, this is a sparkling you could easily crack open and enjoy on any occasion.
Vindemiate Raindrops on Roses 2022 A Limited Edition
The last, but certainly not the least, of our five amazing sparkling wines to showcase England’s diversity is from tiny Brighton-based producer Vindemiate. Owner Tamasine makes just two wines, and while we love them both, Raindrops on Roses is our favourite, and not just for the cute cats on the label.
Raindrops on Rosés is a classic Pét-Nat using Orion and Phoenix grapes grown organically in Oxfordshire. Some of these come from Bridewell Gardens, which is a charitable institution that helps people to recover their mental health via therapeutic gardening.
While you’ll be doing good supporting the growth of these grapes, that’s far from the only reason to buy the wine. It’s completely delicious, bursting with aromas of cherries and ripe pears. Alongside flavours of red apple skin, orange-citrus and a dash of white pepper. You don’t even have to pair it with food, as it’s a perfect sparkling aperitif for a sunny summer’s evening.
And did we mention the cute cats?
A final thought …
Despite such a diverse range of English Sparkling Wine, 99% of the wine we drink in the UK is imported.
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