The Decanter Fine Wine Encounter featured one single producer from their own country, Ridgeview from Sussex, which is a sparkling wine producer, the style of wine that England seems to have had most success with. “Just as rainy and dreary weather as in Champagne, and the white cliffs of Dovers clearly show that there are chalky soils” or whatever :-). In any case, Ridgeview is apparently one of the more well-known (together with e.g. Nyetimber) among an increasing number of English sparkling wine producers, because in 2010 they performed well in competition with some Champagnes at the Decanter World Wine Awards, and in 2011 their wine was served to Obama at a Buckingham Palace dinner.
Ridgeview planted their first vineyards in 1994, have 12 ha of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, and also buys grapes from other growers in southeastern England.
Chardonnay-dominated but also has Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier in the blend. £ 22,95 in their online shop.
Nose: fruity, slightly flowery, apple, slightly spicy
Palate: fruity, slightly sweetish impression, good acidity with some “fizzy tablet feeling”, slightly coarse taste. Aftertaste with a fruity fizzy tablet. 80 p
Dominated by Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, but also has Chardonnay in the blend. £ 22,95 in their online shop.
Nose: fruity, apple, white and red currants, slightly sweetish impression
Palate: fruity, apple, citrus, slightly spicy, good acidity. Better balance and “lift” than Bloomsbury. 82 p.
Fitzrovia Rosé 2010
Chardonnay-dominated, produced by the assemblage method with red Pinot wine (probably both Noir and Meunier). £ 23,95 in their online shop.
Nose:wild strawberries, slightly smoky, red apple and apple peel
Palate: fruity with red berries, but with a somewhat strange note in the fruit – gave an impression that it partially consisted of canned fruit, spicy, good acidity. 80 p.
Marksman Blanc de Blancs 2009
100% Chardonnay. £ 24,95 in their online shop.
Nose: apple with some apple compote impression, citrus, some mineral, nuanced
Palate: fruity, apple, good acidity, slightly spicy. The palate is not as good as the nose. 83 p.
South Ridge Blanc de Noirs 2009
Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. £ 24,95 in their online shop.
Nose: red apples, currants of mixed colour, slightly aromatic, rather spicy, nuanced
Palate: red apples, rather spicy, mineral, high acidity, slight biterness, some coarse feeling. Aftertaste with mineral and apple. 85 p.
If I should try to summarise my impressions of these five wines, I’d say that I didn’t find them completely Champagne-like. All of them come across as somewhat fruity or with sweetness of fruit, and have a certain coarseness on the palate. If a Champagne had this character, I’d have guessed it came from a proportion of bad grapes, or that they had blended in too much of la taille, the second pressing. I also notice that I was a little more fond of the Pinot-dominated wines than those that are Chardonnay-dominated. It wouldn’t be surprising if classical grapes from such a northernly location showed very high acidity, but this was not something that I could note in the finished wine.
Although these sparkling wines are quite OK, the prices are rather high in relation to the qualit. I would definitely recommend anyone at all interested in sparkling wines to try a bottle or two of English sparkling, but they are probably going to find it difficult to export significant quantities at the current price and quality levels, but perhaps they don’t have that ambition. Considering that English sparkling wine has been produced a rather short time, it seems reasonable to believe that quality will continue to develop. By the way, I found it a little odd that there was so little price difference between the wines, despite a certain quality difference.
The Swedish version of this post can be found here.