English Fizz Favourites – Classic to Contemporary

Filed in Wine Offers, Wines Tasted by on November 15, 2015
Case in Shop

My selection on display at Exceptional English Wine Co

I’m really excited to be choosing the wines for the November Wine Cellar Door case, and the fact that it’s a sparkling wine selection makes it even more special. With so many top quality wines to choose from though, from so many excellent producers, it’s a difficult task to narrow it down to just six. My selection from The Exceptional English Wine Company near Midhurst is a personal one, of some of my favourites which I’m sure other people will enjoy and which showcase the strength and diversity of today’s English sparkling wines.

The Altar to English Sparkling Wine

The Altar to English Sparkling Wine

I had to start with Nyetimber Classic Cuvée. This is a wine of many firsts. Nyetimber was the first vineyard to plant the classic Champagne varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier for sparkling wine production, back in 1988. It was the first English sparkling wine I drank, on honeymoon in 2001. And recently, among the many other awards it has garnered over the years, it came first in the Best English Sparkling Wine category at the 2015 Champagne and International Sparkling Wine World Championships. This has always been my benchmark English sparkling wine and the one I always ask people if they’ve tried when I start talking to them (as I inevitably do) about English wine. The spiritual home of English sparkling is beautiful place to visit too and if you’ve not been to one of their open days, seen the vineyard (although not the winery, as the wine is now made elsewhere) and the timber-framed manor house, and tasted through the Nyetimber range in their ancient barn, I urge you to do so.

2013-07-31 15.01 Nutbourne Vineyards View from Mill

View over the Vines from the Mill that Houses the Tasting Room at Nutbourne

Just minutes down the road from Nyetimber is the source of my next wine, Nutbourne Vineyard Nutty 2011. With a lower profile than its neighbour and producing both still and sparkling wines, this down to earth vineyard makes some very well made, good value wines. The one that appealed to me most when I visited was this one, made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and the lesser known but widely planted Reichensteiner. The vineyard offers a warm welcome to visitors with a self-guided trail around the vines (some of which were planted as far back as 1980), past fish ponds, alpacas and picnic spots, and finishing at the charming tasting room on the first floor of a converted windmill.

It’s not the only wine in this selection that’s not made from the usual Champagne varieties. I’ve also included Davenport Vineyard‘s organic Limney Estate 2010, an impressive blend of Pinot Noir and Auxerrois. The Auxerrois grape is more commonly found in the Alsace region of France, but there are a few UK plantings to look out for, including this one from 1993. The fact that this wine is produced organically by Will Davenport at his Sussex vineyard makes it even more worthy of inclusion in this case.

My fourth selection is Breaky Bottom Cuvée Princess Colonna 2008. This is another fantastic English wine. Its maker, Peter Hall, has over 40 years’ experience of growing grapes in a beautiful spot hidden deep in the South Downs. It’s a stunning wine, full of toasty character.  I visited with my family last year and this is the wine that I shared with Peter on the terrace outside his winery. As well as being one of mine favourite vineyards, it’s my children’s favourite too – and they get to visit lots, as I’m sure you can imagine. They loved Breaky Bottom and I’ve got a bottle of this put aside for my son who was born in 2008, for when he’s old enough to taste it!

2014-10-11 Bluebell Juice

Grapes and Freshly Squeezed Juice at Bluebell Vineyard Estates.

Bluebell Vineyard Hindleap Blanc de Blancs has a similar rich palette and depth of flavour, just to my taste. Bluebell are a producer who I’m sorry to say I only became acquainted with fairly recently, despite them celebrating their 10th anniversary this year. Having attended their birthday celebrations and tasted their full range of wines made by talented winemaker Kevin Sutherland, I’m a fan of this reliable producer and this is my favourite of their wines (although do keep an eye out for their very limited Recently Disgorged 2007 and try it if you can!)

Finally, bringing us bang up to date ticking my ‘contemporary’ box is the Classic Cuvée from Woodchurch. This is Woodchurch’s first vintage but it’s an estate I’ve been keeping an eye on and which looks set to make a mark. Kevin Sutherland is again the man behind the bubbles, taking carefully grown fruit from Donna and Graham Barbour’s 12 acre vineyard in Kent and converting it into something special. I like the colourful, handsomely presented bottles, too.

The case costs £165 including delivery, or £180 including wooden box. To order, buy online at our website, or contact Iain at Exceptional English Wine Company on 01730 814671.

This English sparkling wine selection showcases for me the quality, variety and individuality of the wines being produced in England at the moment. There is a story behind every one. Try them, and start your own relationship with some wonderful fizz.

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About the Author ()

Ian Hardwick's viticultural first love is Champagne, but he also enjoys seeking out the best of what England can now offer. He is a tourism professional with an interest in geography, so visiting English vineyards ticks those boxes, too.

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