Archive for July, 2011

What’s in a name…?

Jul. 29th 2011

Amidst the storm of finding the right name for English sparkling wine, that has been blowing around for the past few months, following Coates & Seely’s launch of their eponymous wine brand, HRH Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, has taken the seat to preside over the UK Vineyard Association.


HRH Camilla’s passion for wine, and particularly English fizz, following her comments that it’s as good as Champagne, and should be called such, provides the UKVA with the best figurehead to take on the mantle following Lord Montagu of Beaulieu’s retirement from the post of President of the UKVA.


The launch of Coates & Seely’s labelling decision to name their English sparkling wines ‘Britagne’, has caused a raft of articles and comment amongst the industry and press alike. With RidgeView‘s ‘Merret’ brand offering a similar overarching name to encapsulate sparkling wine – much like ‘Cava’ does in Spain, ‘Prosecco’ in Italy, ‘Sekt’ in Germany – people are trying to find a solution to what could be a never-ending debate. The term English sparkling wine is one that is descriptive and true to the product, even if it is a bit of a mouthful…


The new PDO (protected designation of origin) rules which will classify some of the wines in questions as ‘Traditional Quality Sparkling Wine’, permit only wines made in the traditional method in England or Wales from grapes grown in that locality from the following varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot noir, Pinot noir précoce, Pinot meunier, Pinot blanc, and Pinot gris. Some of our best fizzes are made from other varieties, including Seyval blanc (notably Breaky Bottom), which will not fall under the PDO classification. This is not something that will stop producers of these wines from being successful – as we have seen in Italy, where the Super-Tuscans, and Garagistes of France, produce the best and most expensive wines outside of the controlled appellation in which they are based – but it could, however, limit their marketability on a national and international stage, for a country still in its infancy in the grand scheme of things. At the same time, however, as is seen the world over, these limitations and regulations are put in place to enable wines to be of the best possible quality, enhancing their reputation.


In terms of branding, and denoting region of origin and grape varieties, like many French appellations have achieved over hundreds of years, England is a very difficult country to break down in the same way. Relatively speaking, our wine production levels are so low and our production industry so young, that it would be almost like shooting ourselves in the foot to try and break up the market that exists sparsely across the country.


A generic name for English sparkling wine could, it is heavily debated, give the product a catchier, sexier, and perhaps more marketable name. But in New World countries (Australia, New Zealand, USA), that don’t have a fancy name that genericises their top sparkling wines, it is the producers that have made names for themselves and paved the way for other producers to have the same success that they do. The brands that exist in English sparkling wine market are strong, and their products speak volumes. In any market, there are market leaders that encourage and expect competition from newcomers, and it is up to those new brands to build themselves up to a point where they can really compete.


If the need for a overall name for English sparkling wine (that isn’t ‘English sparkling wine’) is real, then it should be researched and developed among marketeers, historians, industry experts, and implemented by an industry body (like the UKVA, of which the prestigious Duchess of Cornwall is now President) for minimal cost, if any, to the producers of the wine. The implementation of a name by one single producer denotes the fact that they are the purveyors of the name and therefore demand better traction in a market that should be fair game.


There is such development to take place in the English wine industry, with reputation and popularity growing daily, that this decision will not be taken lightly. If it’s not going to stay as ‘English Sparkling Wine’, as many producers, young and old, believe it should, here at Sparkling English Wine, we can’t wait to see the final result. Watch this space…!

Posted by Tom Jones | in In The Media, Site News | No Comments »

Sparkling English Wine welcomes Bolney Wine Estate!

Jul. 26th 2011

Another top producer has joined us at Sparkling English Wine! Bolney Wine Estate is the newest member on the website, and we are pleased to be stocking their entire range of sparkling wines


Vines, bolney wine estate, winery, south downs, sussex

Looking through the vines towards Bolney's winery and the South Downs


Bolney Wine Estate have long been an established name in the English wine industry, beginning as a vineyard back in 1972, when Rodney Pratt planted 3 acres of vines. Since then, the estate has grown and grown, both in size and in reputation. Currently run by Rodney’s daughter, winemaker Sam Linter, Bolney pick up awards nationally and internationally on a regular basis.


Sam directs a team of hard-working, focused individuals who are all seen as part of the Bolney family, mucking in in the vineyard and in the state-of-the-art winery.


Despite their main focus being on creating the best red wines in England, they produce a range of English sparkling wine that has won countless awards over recent years, including a red sparkler made from 100% Dornfelder.


Bolney Wine Estate Blanc de blancs 2006

Blanc de blancs 2006

Bolney Wine Estate Cuvée Rosé 2008, English sparkling wine

Cuvée Rosé 2008

Bolney wine estate cuvée noir 2008, red sparkling wine

Cuvée Noir 2008

Bolney wine estate, bolney bubbly 2008, english sparkling wine, muller thurgau

Bolney Bubbly 2008















These top quality English sparkling wines are all available from Bolney’s wine page on the site…


Read more about the story behind the vineyard and winery at Bolney Wine Estate here


Jenkyn Place Vineyard’s wine now available at Sparkling English Wine

Jul. 22nd 2011
Jenkyn Place 2007 Sparkling Brut Bottles, wine rack

Jenkyn Place 2007 Sparkling Brut Bottles

Hampshire wine producer, Jenkyn Place Vineyard have recently joined the portfolio of wines from England’s best sparkling wines available on Sparkling English Wine.


Simon Bladon and his wife Rebecca (pictured below with their trophy for Best Wine from the 2010 Wessex Vineyard Association awards, for the 2006 Sparkling Brut) began the transformation of Jenkyn Place into an award-winning vineyard in 2003, having tasted some outstanding English sparkling wine from a Sussex producer.

Bladon, Jenkyn Place Vineyard, 2006 Sparkling Brut, WVA awards, trophy

Rebecca and Simon Bladon with the WVA trophy for their 2006 Brut Sparkling

Jenkyn Place was once known for its fabulous gardens set in the North Downs of Hampshire near Bentley. The Bladon’s believed the site to be perfectly suited to growing classic Champagne variety grapes and set about the planting to produce their first wine in 2006 (released 2010, after ageing in bottle for 31 months). Releasing their second wine in 2011, the Jenkyn Place Vineyard 2007 Sparkling Brut, Simon and Rebecca have again picked up some silverware including silver medals at the International Wine and Spirits Competition and the UKVA English and Welsh Wine of the Year Awards.


Read more about their story and purchase their wines on the Sparkling English Wine site.




Posted by Tom Jones | in Producer News, Site News | No Comments »

Gusbourne Estate joins Sparkling English Wine!

Jul. 15th 2011

Gusbourne's Blanc de blancs


We’re pleased to announce that Gusbourne Estate, who are producing some of the best wines in the country, have now joined the Sparkling English Wine ranks. Having won a plethora of awards nationally and internationally over the past few years, Gusbourne’s English sparkling wines are a fantastic example of how England are able to compete on a stage with quality wines internationally.

Vineyard mist Gusbourne Estate

Gusbourne's vineyard sits on gentle south facing slopes


Gusbourne Estate sits in the ancient Kentish escarpment near Ashford, just 6 miles from the coast in the sunny depths of Kent. 21 hectares of the estate is currently is planted with Champagne varieties, the grapes from which are some of the best quality in the country.


Visit the shop page to purchase and try the three fabulous award-winning wines that Gusbourne currently produce a Brut Reserve, a Blanc de blancs and a Rosé. Each of these is tenderly crafted and produced using the Champenoise method, creating a delicate and interesting range of finished wines.



UKVA awards 2011: Guest blogger Owen Elias

Jul. 14th 2011

Tuesday 12th July, saw a visit to London for the annual UKVA Wine of the Year Awards…


Hosted by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, the lunch and tasting of the winning wines takes place in the Cholmondeley Room with its riverside terrace at the House of Lords. I think I have been coming here for at least 15 years and witnessed the darker days of the English wine industry as well as its current renaissance as the next big thing.


For the last few years, sparkling wines have dominated the Gold Medals and Trophies, this year with a change of judges and a couple of absentees (most notably Nyetimber, which is a shame because their Rose 2007 is a fantastic wine), still wines, mainly made from Bacchus seem to have impressed their palates and dominated the tasting table.


RidgeView Blanc de Blancs Magnum 2000On the sparkling wine front, youthfulness seems to have been the over-riding criteria in an interesting and surprising set of results, the RidgeView 2000 Blanc de Blancs, the overall winner was the oldest wine by 8 years and tasted as fresh and young as any. Four other sparkling wines won Gold: one from 2008 , Hindleap Rosé from Bluebell; the other three from 2009: Camel Valley Brut and Pinot Noir, and Plumpton’s The Dean Brut NV. Certainly with the demand for English sparkling wine at an all time high, wineries have been releasing their wines earlier, they are more aromatic and English, relying less on the extended lees ageing and more on fruit than in previous years.


By Owen Elias, English Terroir


‘French’ Champagne invented by British doctor Christopher Merret | Mail Online

Jul. 7th 2011


The familiar ‘pop’ of the cork, the fizz spilling over the sides of the flute, and the bubbly dry taste — it could only be champagne. Or should we say, ‘Merret’?


For nearly three centuries, the French have fought to ensure that only the sparkling wine made in a particular part of France can be given the name champagne.


But could champagne really have been introduced to the world by a 17th-century Englishman? Many believe a Gloucester doctor called Christopher Merret recorded a recipe for champagne some 20 years before the French Benedictine monk and cellar master, Dom Pierre Perignon, who is officially recognised as the drink’s father.

In fact, so convinced is leading British wine producer Mike Roberts — whose Ridgeview vineyards are based in the South Downs in East Sussex — that he’s spearheading a campaign to name sparkling British wine after Oxford-educated Dr Merret.


It all dates back to a chilly December evening in 1662, when Dr Merret presented the Royal Society with an eight-page paper detailing experiments of English cider makers, who had begun adding sugars to wine to create a bubbly, refreshingly dry drink — remarkably similar to modern-day champagne.


Dr Merret noted how ‘our wine-coopers of recent times add vast quantities of sugar and molasses to wines to make them drink brisk and sparkling’. The academic, previously better known for publishing papers on smelting and tin mining, gave details of a ‘second fermentation process’ — a chemical reaction that occurs when the bottled alcohol underwent an increase in temperature and produced carbon dioxide — that now forms a key element of champagne-making, namely the ‘methode champenoise’.


Tradition — and the French — have always insisted champagne was invented in 1697 by Perignon. The monk supposedly discovered it entirely by accident: the wine he bottled from the abbey’s vineyards in the autumn just before the weather turned cool never fermented properly, only doing so when temperatures started rising again in the spring. This process — secondary fermentation — often resulted in exploding bottles thanks to the wine’s dormant yeast producing sudden carbon dioxide bubbles.


At first, Dom Perignon viewed this as a curse, referring to the new drink as ‘the devil’s wine’ — because one exploding bottle would often cause another to blow up, occasionally shattering entire cellars of wine.


But when the monk tasted the alcohol produced in bottles which didn’t explode, he started experimenting with grape varieties and realised it was a deliciously dry, fizzy drink by itself.


There are many wine experts, however, who believe the French merely copied Merret’s formula after visiting England. According to them, the Merret tipple proved tremendously popular in London, whereupon word reached France about the new craze — and it wasn’t long before wine-makers in the north-east region of the country sent spies across the English Channel to investigate.


Their excitement at the discovery, however, was equalled only by their frustration that it was an Englishman cataloguing such advances.


‘We definitely beat the French and Dom Perignon by at least 22 years,’ says Tom Stevenson, the author of Christie’s World Encyclopaedia of Champagne & Sparkling Wine, who has researched Dr Merret’s work. In fact, he adds: ‘Merret was not only the first to describe the deliberate addition of sugar to create a sparkling wine, he was also the first person ever to use the term “sparkling wine”. The first documented mention of the equivalent French term, vin mousseux, was not until 1718.’


Moreover, on the English side of the Channel, winemakers had also started trying to produce bottles which could withstand the secondary fermentation pressure — with some help from Dr Merret for, happily, one of his many disciplines included glass-making. He was helped by advances in British furnaces, which began using coal as the fuel of choice (instead of charcoal, after the British Navy requisitioned much of the timber to build a more powerful fleet), allowing much higher furnace temperatures, which were capable of creating stronger glass.


So sacre bleu — is it really Merret we have to thank for the reassuring sound of a cork popping? Ridgeview’s Mike Roberts thinks so, for although Merret did not invent the technique, he dutifully logged the process and allowed other wine makers to use them. Now he wants all British sparkling wine to be renamed ‘Merret’. British producers are keen to mark their sparkling wines as  uniquely English — in the same way the Spanish have cava and the Italians prosecco — to distinguish them from French champagne.


‘In no way do I want to call my wines champagne,’ says Roberts. ‘This is an English product and these are English vineyards.’


English sparkling wines are winning awards and increasingly replacing Champagne at glamorous events. The Queen served sparkling wine from Chapel Down, Kent, at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. And the Royal Family has even planted 16,700 chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier vines in Windsor Great Park with the intention of creating their own fizz.


Mr Stevenson, who found Dr Merret’s paper in the Nineties, admits the French are not happy with a discovery that questions their boasts of giving champagne to the world.

‘When I wrote about Merret, Le Figaro, the French newspaper, accused me of “trying to burn Dom Perignon”,’ he says, wryly.

Sour grapes, perhaps?


via ‘French’ Champagne invented by British doctor Christopher Merret | Mail Online.

Posted by Tom Jones | in In The Media | No Comments »