English Grapes


Chardonnay, alongside Pinot Noir, is now the most popular grape grown in the UK.  It is one of the “noble” grape varietals and is used to make English Sparkling Wine and increasingly still Chardonnay.  English Sparkling Wine is globally recognised and multiple producers hold international awards for quality and taste.

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What is Chardonnay?

The Chardonnay grape originated in a small village called … wait for it … Chardonnay in Burgundy France. Today, Chardonnay is the most widely planted grape in the world and thrives not just in France, but in warm countries like Australia and California as well as the cooler climes of Kent and Sussex in England.  Chardonnay is a very versatile grape that can be made into a wide range of still wines from crisp, refreshing unoaked styles such as Chablis, to richer creamier oaked styles from new world regions which became hugely popular in the 1990s.  Chardonnay is also used for sparkling wine, most famously Champagne, but also Crémant and English Sparkling Wine. It is not used in Prosecco: that’s a grape called Glera.

What is English Chardonnay?

Chardonnay is the most popular grape grown in the UK. When you buy a bottle of Classic Method Blanc de Blancs English Sparkling Wine it will be 100% English Chardonnay.

There are also an increasing number of producers making still English Chardonnay.

Chardonnay is grown throughout England, with Sussex, Kent, Hampshire and Essex becoming the most renown regions.

What Does English Chardonnay Taste Like?

England is a cool climate region with many similarities to the Champagne region 20 years ago. It is ideal for growing grapes for English Sparkling Wine.  Traditional Method English Blanc de Blancs is as a rule fresher and crisper than Blanc de Noir which is made from Pinot Noir grapes.  Depending on how it is made and how long it is aged for the flavour will range from apples and citrus notes to toasty, biscuity notes.

Chardonnay is very versatile grape, so how it is made makes a huge difference to the how it tastes. The more oaky styles such as Wine GB 22 Trophy winning Gusbourne’s Chardonnay Guinevere Barrel Selection is rich and creamy with a silky feel in the mouth. On the other hand, producers like Charles Palmer are making more lean, crisp Chablis style Chardonnay. Without really prolonged periods of hot weather, no English Chardonnay will have the tropical, pineapple and banana flavours of those 1990’s New World brands like Lindeman’s Bin 65.

Is English Chardonnay a good wine?

English Traditional Method Blanc de Blancs winemakers have been receiving global acclaim and international awards for several decades with those longer established wineries such as Nyetimber winning medals for vintages produced as far back as the early noughties.

In the last couple of years and really since that “golden vintage” in the warm summer of 2018, still English Chardonnay has been making a mark.  By way of example, Vagabond urban winery in London was awarded the UK’s only platinum medal at the prestigious Decanter world wine awards.  The 2020 Chardonnay, which was made using grapes grown in Essex, was awarded 97 out of 100 points by judges.  That means it beat dozens of other Chardonnays from other countries – including France.

Why are French Champagne Houses are investing in UK Vineyards?

There are regions in the Southeast of England that have an upper crustaceous fine white chalk soil which is the exact same soil formation as the Champagne region in France.  With global warming making temperatures more ideal for grape growing in the UK and incidentally less than ideal in parts of France there has been increasing interest from across the channel. Champagne Taittinger is the first of the Grande Marque Champagne Houses to set a vineyard in the UK’s burgeoning English Sparkling wine industry. The first wines are due to be released in 2024.

Best vintage for English Chardonnay_Vagabond award winning Chardonnay 2020

English Chardonnay

Best Vintages

What is the best vintage for English Chardonnay?

We have nothing like the history of classic wine producing regions such as Burgundy, where the story of every vintage is recorded through the generations. What we do have is the adventure of being here at the beginning of something new. You will be amongst the first to buy, store and taste English Chardonnay and discover how it ages over 5, 10, 20 years.  There is a little more availability of back vintage English Blanc de Blancs than there is of still Chardonnay. Grab it now while you can.

2022 too early to say at time of writing, but promises great things.

2020 a stellar vintage with many award winning wines, such as Vagabond Chardonnay, the UK’s only platinum wine at the Decanter World Wine Awards in 2022.

2018 is considered the best vintage of the modern era.  Buy now and hold on to one or two for a few years, if you can.

2014 vintage English Sparkling Wines are currently scoring highly and rightly so.  With 7 years in the bottle, they have plenty of depth but are still super fresh.  The weather, if you can remember that far back, was wet and cool in August but really warmed up in September and October to produce great grapes.

2009 was also a good year, but hard to get your hands on it now.

2012 was a dog.

English Chardonnay

Food and Wine Pairings

Chardonnay, especially the lighter cool clime English style is best with delicate, lightly flavoured dishes. It’s perfectly paired with fish, shellfish, chicken, turkey, pork. Delicious with toasted flavours of grilled breads, pastries and nuts.  Buttery, creamy, mushroomy sauces are great. Avoid heavily spiced foods like curries, bitter foods like winter greens, acidic foods like fresh tomatoes and very, pungent cheeses or cheese based dishes.

For classic seasonal British Delicious try homemade roasted beetroot crisps (June-Feb).

Spring: Scallops with sorrel leaves and a warm English lentil salad

Summer: Parchment baked filet of cod served with a butter and herb sauce topped with summer leaves.

Autumn: Roasted chicken in a cream and woodland mushroom sauce with Fava beans and wilted spinach leaves.

Winter: Pan griddled turkey breast, buttery Brussel sprouts and Hasselbeck potatoes served with sweet chili jam.


English beetroot crisps