The British bubble is giving the top guns of Champagne a real run for their money
The Brits up against one of the most prestigious regions in the world, Champagne, in the battle for the Fizz. A classic underdog story; David vs Goliath; The Karate Kid; Leicester City for a year.
Ok – so it’s not that dramatic, and we haven’t replaced Champagne’s title, but for the last few years the Brits have been seriously giving the French a run for their money with many of their top palates picking ours over theirs in blind-tastings.
But it wasn’t always this way – English wines were sniffed at by buffs; and maybe for good reason – while we have always been fully committed to drinking it (rating 6th in the world’s wine consumption), producing was not always our strong point. But that was then. Now, thanks to our climate getting warmer (thank you CF2s!?), south-facing chalky soils and greater interest/investment /knowledge, the British bubble is creating something of a buzz, receiving recognition and even competing with leading Champagnes.
So, what’s the taste?
You can typically expect a clean, crisp, elegant toasty taste, with flavours like apple, apricot and almond. These wines are light and refreshing, while still leaving that creaminess feel in your mouth.
Hey, it’s not cheap!
Ok – so at around £25 – £30 plus (and growing) it is not cheap – especially when weighing it up against a nine quid Prosecco or Cava. But when the good stuff tastes on a par with, say, a £65 bottle of Billecart-Salmon Grand Cru Champagne – you aren’t doing too badly.
Why is it so much like Champagne?
There have been a lot of comparisons with Champagne and it is easy to see why. Firstly, the Brits grow and use most of the same grapes in their bubbles – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Secondly, any sparkling that uses Champagne’s traditional method will create more a toasty, richer taste than say Prosecco, which is made differently and tastes fruitier. And thirdly – the cool climate and chalky soils of England are again, very similar to those in Champagne. Add this all together and …da-tah!
Why the French interest?
As the UK becomes warmer, with it will be better quality English grapes. In parallel, Champagne is in danger of becoming too hot. It now appears the top Champagne houses are buying up English soils as a way of future planning.
What do we call it then – England? Fizz?
Unlike other famous regions that effectively group all their fizz together – like Champagne, Prosecco or Cava – the British fizz doesn’t have an appellation (i.e. a legally defined and protected geographic area used to identify where the grapes are grown) and is more producer -led. However, there is talk that may change. So in the future you could be asking for a “Sussex” next time you are in a restaurant.
What we drink:
NY Nyetimber Classic Cuvée – One of the blind-tasting winners, the result is a creamy, rich brioche-type mouthful teamed with a cutting slice of citrus.
Gusbourne Brut Reserve – Biscuits on the nose, elegant and fruity on the palate
Hambledon Classic Cuvee Brut – Another blind-tasting winner, sourdough and dessert apples.