THE GRAPE BASE IS VIRTUALLY the same as Champagne — Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. They are made by the same two-fermentation Champagne method. And, like Champagne, the finished result is a sparkling wine. One difference, though: This bubbly is made not in France’s Champagne region but in the southern part of England. So much is English sparkling wine a growing industry, the majority of wine currently produced in England’s 450 wineries is now sparkling.
To test the quality of English sparklers, I held a small tasting of six. The result was fascinating.
Chapel Down Classic Brut NV — an elegant, pale-shaded sparkler with tiny, tight bubbles — proved a well-made, well-structured, clean wine. It left a pleasant, refreshing finish.
The flavors of Ridgeview Bloomsbury NV were a bit deeper with small, lively bubbles and an elegant aroma: a classic, delicate sparkler.
Nyetimber Classic Cuvée Brut, NV, expressed still deeper flavors and a fuller body, more complexity and more weight. A sturdy, well-balanced wine with well-balanced acidity, it’s a classic sparkler very similar to Champagne.
As befits a wine made totally of white grapes, Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2014 was pale, almost colorless, with bright, especially active bubbles: a vivacious wine with a positive mouth feel.
Delicious and powerful, Gusbourne Brut Reserve 2014 inspired one of the tasters to ask if I snuck a Champagne into the tasting to fool them. No, it was simply a bigger, more forward English sparkler.
Chapel Down Three Graces 2014 displayed the largest bubbles of the group, and they were aggressive as well. This complex wine boasts a body of medium weight and exceptional structure although with a rather short finish.
Overall, England’s sparkling wines, all new to the tasters, both surprised and pleased them. As for prices, they range about $40–65.
Is France’s Champagne region concerned about English competition? Perhaps more in action than in words. In 2015 the 276-year-old, highly respected Champagne house of Taittinger bought vineyard land in England and in 2017 planted its first English vineyards. When they mature, it will make its first English sparkler.
If you haven’t started planning for next year’s total solar eclipse viewing, you have some serious work to do. Next year’s total eclipse will only be visible from Antarctica and won’t happen again for 75 years.
Since 1970, Goway Travel has been committed to providing customized travel experiences for world travelers. Few things are better evidence of this commitment than being awarded the 2019 Trazees award for Favorite Tour Operator. Goway Travel heartily thanks the readers of Trazee Travel for this honor and for their confidence in Goway’s work in creating travel memories that’ll last a lifetime.
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