What is English Sparkling Wine_ hero

What is English Sparkling Wine?

All you need to know about the world’s most exciting sparkling wine country.

What is English Sparkling Wine? You probably know that people are excited about it. Like… really excited! Long gone are the days when English wine was the preserve of hobbyists who planted a few vines in their back gardens, pressed whatever grapes happened to grow, and hoped for the best.  

What is english sparkling wine kent vineyard

These days, English Sparkling wine is a serious business.  The best locations are being mapped out, mainly in Kent, Sussex and Hampshire. There’s also a huge amount of money and expertise pouring into the industry. And it’s not just UK investment. Several Champagne houses, including Tattinger, are planting vineyards in the UK. And Jackson Family Estate, a large US-based multinational vineyard owner, has just announced a big investment in English land.

With all that is going on, it is a great time to ask… what is English Sparkling Wine?  

sparkling wine in the cellar undergoing secondary fermentation


What is English Sparkling Wine?

It might seem like a silly question.  

Surely, English Sparkling Wine is just sparkling wine that’s made in England from English-grown grapes, right? Well, it’s not quite that simple. That’s because not every sparkling wine made in England is made equal, and not all may be labelled equally. 

The big distinction is over what may be labelled as “English Quality Sparkling Wine”.  


what is english sparkling wine oastbrook rose

English Quality Sparkling Wine Must Be Made In The Same Way As Champagne.

The traditional method was made famous in France’s Champagne region. Here, grapes are picked and pressed, and the juice is fermented to turn it into wine. This wine is then put into a strong glass bottle, and then more yeast and sugar is added to the bottle, which is sealed with a crown cap. This yeast causes the wine to undergo a ‘secondary’ fermentation in the bottle by consuming the sugar, and the process gives off carbon dioxide. It is this fermentation that creates the traditional method’s characteristic fine bubbles.  

After the yeast consumes the sugar, it dies, and the resulting sparkling wine is left in the bottle with the yeast cells (known as ‘lees’) for a minimum of 18 months. This ‘ageing on lees’ creates the brioche and freshly baked bread aromas typical of traditional method sparkling wines. 

However, English Quality Sparkling Wine is not the only type of sparkling wine made in England.

what is English sparkling wine? charmat style Bramble Hill

Sparkling Wine of England Is Not Made In The Champagne Style.

Some producers are now making ‘Charmat’ sparkling wines, where the secondary fermentation takes place in a large tank instead of individual bottles. Marks and Spencers’ Bramble Hill is a great example of this. The process is faster and cheaper, and these sparkling wines can be delicious. However, they’re rarely as complex, fine, or as long-lived as those made by the traditional method.  

A few others are making sparkling wines by carbonating them without recourse to a secondary fermentation at all. For instance, Chapel Down Sparkling Bacchus.  This process is similar to the way we make carbonated soft drinks. These sparkling wines typically hit a strong price point, but they’re unlikely to offer the quality of even a Charmat wine. 

Either way, these wines will say ‘Sparkling Wine of England’ or something else that sounds very similar on the label.

Always Read The Label

So, what is English Sparkling Wine? On the one hand, it is simply sparkling wine made in England from English-grown grapes. Yet, the way in which it is made makes a big difference. Look out for English Quality Sparkling Wine on the label if you want the best quality. Or, if you want something quaffable at a lower price point, a Sparkling Wine of England might do the trick. As a general rule of thumb anything under £25 (unless on promotion in a supermarket) is unlikely to have been made in the traditional method.

English Sparkling Wine opening a bottle of Raimes

Is English Sparkling Wine any good?

If we’re talking traditional method English Quality Sparkling Wine, then yes, it is very, very good. These wines so regularly beat Champagnes in global competitions that it’s almost an old story to make the comparison. 

Having said that, just because a few experts have ranked English Sparkling Wines as being as good as Champagnes doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to love every single one you try.  

Like Champagne, the style varies from producer to producer. Hampshire’s Raimes, for example, takes inspiration from the distinctly delicate, elegant style of Champagne house Pol Roger. To this end, their Classic Cuvée leans heavily into Chardonnay, which is chiefly responsible for finer-style sparkling wines like Pol Roger and Raimes. 

On the other hand, Gusbourne Estate from Kent blends far more Pinot Noir into their sparkling wines, and as a result they are richer and more robust – more like an English take on Bollinger or Veuve Clicquot. 

So, is English Sparkling Wine any good? Hell yes it is! You’ll just have to experiment to find your favourite. 

What is english sparkling wine Gusbourne rose

Why is English Sparkling Wine so expensive?

Spoiler alert… it is not. 

Individually fermenting each bottle of wine and then ageing for a minimum of 18 months is expensive and time-consuming. As such, traditional method sparkling wine comes with a price tag.

Having said that, compared to Champagnes of equivalent quality, English Sparkling Wine is not particularly expensive. A bottle of Dom Perignon will set you back £140+ per bottle. Whereas a bottle from a leading English producer, made with as much care and attention to detail, with fruit grown in a top quality, south-facing vineyard, might set you back £50.  

On the other hand, an entry-level Champagne from Pol Roger, Veuve Clicquot or Bollinger will cost £35 – £50. Entry level equivalents from England cost £25 – £40. Compared apples to apples, English Sparkling Wine is brilliant value. 

English sparkling wine Langhams

How can I try English Sparkling Wine?

UK supermarkets can be a great place to start. But bear in mind that, to supply a national business like a supermarket chain, a sparkling wine producer has to be able to supply a LOT of wine. And in wine, biggest isn’t always the most beautiful. 

At Marasby, we recommend buying direct from the winemaker themselves. Many vineyards now offer tours and tastings and, if you’re in the south of England at least, a large number are reachable within 1 – 2 hours via car or train. 

The other way to buy direct from the winemaker is on Marasby Market. Every single wine listed in our market is delivered to you direct from the amazing person who made it, at the same price they offer at their own cellar door. No middlemen inflating prices. No wasted distribution miles.  

So what are you waiting for?  

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