As a member of L’Academie du Champagne (My sponsor house is Laurent Perrier) I write this article with my eye on the office door fully expecting to be arrested by a burly, french front row from the Champagne Inquisition for my treachery and blasphemy towards their noble wine region for what I am about to say. At recent tasting with Gusbourne Estate in Kent I had my Damascene moment that English sparkling wine has now passed the rubicon and that we can describe this as a ‘world class wine’. The quality of the wine, not just at Gusbourne, but Hattingley Valley, Wiston, Chapel Down, Nyetimber and many more can no longer be seen as plucky and romantic, but dynamic and exciting. We can therefore rightly ask, ‘Is the South of England the most exciting wine producing region in the world right now?’
Whilst many in the wine trade still see Champagne as the pinnacle, and with good reason, our own English fizz is now something that we can be rightly proud of; not because of a sudden need to be proudly British with Brexit on the horizon in 2019, but because of its undoubted solid growth in quality year on year. The huge investment in technology and the recent non-stop creation of new vineyards means English Sparkling Wine is growing at an exponential rate. This growing demand has led to land under vine doubling over the last 10 years, with 30 vineyards opening in the last two years alone. There are more than 500 commercial vineyards in the UK comprising 133 wineries spread over approximately 5,000 acres of land. More importantly, English sparkling wine is now exported to 27 countries with bold figures being released about even greater export sales. At Hattingley Valley the USA has become the key market, even over the UK!
Whilst there are still a few arguments to be fought about regional designation (No, waste of time and diversive) and a name to rival noble Champagne (No, please not Merret, just silly marketing) the future of the English Sparkling Wine industry is unbelievably positive. We are now at the point in our long and mostly fraught relationship with the vine in this country to happily raise a glass at a wedding, birthday or bar mitzvah, at Christmas, at a restaurant or out wine shopping, not with Champagne but with ENGLISH SPARKLING WINE.
Michael Robins, Wholesale Director