MEDAL winners on the global stage and with fizz fine enough to rival champagne, English winemakers are putting the verve back into viniculture and have plenty to celebrate ahead of English Wine Week (May 28-June 5).
Thanks to dazzling sunshine and an early summer, the darling vines of May are already starting to flower and farmers’ fortunes are predicting rich pickings with a bumper crop of plump, ripe grapes and an early harvest.
With around 400 vineyards up and down the country producing still and sparkling wines, and an increase in plantings of more than 50% in the past five years, there couldn’t be a better time to think, and drink, English.
Here are a few favourites that fly the flag well for English wines.
Winemaker of the year Sam Lindo can’t seem to put a foot wrong on the sun-drenched slopes of his famous Cornish winery, Camel Valley. Try Camel Valley Cornwall Brut 2009 (£19.95, www.camelvalley.com) for a marvellous glass of liquid gold. A blend of seyval and reichensteiner, it’s dry and zingy with plenty of citrusy notes, good depth of flavour and well balanced.
Or why not try Stanlake Park Wine Estate Stanlake Brut NV (£18.99, www.stanlakepark.com) from Stanlake Park Wine, Berkshire?
A blend of pinot noir and chardonnay, it boasts the same grapes as Louis Roederer’s Cristal Champagne. It’s lively and dry with a creamy mousse, a hint of biscuit, good power and crisp acidity.
Recognised as one of England’s best, Nyetimber uses a classic champagne blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier from the sunny slopes of its West Sussex estate. Try Nyetimber Classic Cuvee Vintage 2006 (£29.99, Waitrose) - the extra ageing on lees gives a boost of richness and depth to this fruity fizz. It’s complex and toasty with lemony and lime flavours and a giant of a finish. Very pleasant with a star rating.
M&S has a pretty sparkler courtesy of Chapel Down in Kent. Try M&S Sparkling Brut NV (£20, Marks & Spencer). A blend of reichensteiner, sylvaner and a splash of pinot noir, it’s a fresh mouthful of juicy red apples with a hint of mandarin and the gentle bubbles aren’t as complex as some.
From the chalky soils of the South Downs, Ridgeview Wine Estate concentrates solely on sparkle, and it has some pretty classy offerings. It’s also the only non-champagne producer to have won the International Sparkling Wine Trophy at the 2010 Decanter World Wine Awards for its Blanc de Blancs.
But if you’re thinking pink, try Ridgeview Merret Fitzrovia Rose 2007 (£22.99, Waitrose). Made from the three classic champagne varieties, this feisty effervescent is a pretty salmon pink with summer-fruit notes, a raspberry nose, good acidity and a clean finish.
The most expensive English sparkler, Hush Heath Balfour Brut Rose 2006 (£34.99, www.bibendum-wine.co.uk) is scaling the dizzy heights and is going to be available in BA’s first-class cabins as an alternative to champagne (July to September) - and will also be served in first-class lounges.