"One holds a bottle of red wine by the neck, a woman by the waist, and a bottle of champagne by the derriere.”

Mark Twain

All this lovely weather drove me to sample English sparklers this week and it just reinforced my belief that the South of England is the new Champagne. Yeah, I know, I can hear the shrieks of horror from France... he must be a Brexiteer! To be honest though, very few of the traditional Champagnes can hold a torch to the English sparklers at present unless you open bottles such as Krug or Crystal with their associated stratospheric prices. Before anyone sharpens the guillotine however, they should take a really good look at the bulk of champagnes in the same price region as the English sparklers I tried, ie £25 to £40. Dross, acidic dross and more dross!

With more than 130 wineries and 500 plus vineyards, England is becoming a major player in the world of wine and as the climate continues to change, so will the range of vines grown here, but right now, while there are smatterings of red wine production, crisp whites and sparklers rule the roost across great swathes of southern England.

It was an eye-opener for me, despite reading so many plaudits for our home grown sparklers in recent years, but the quality across the board was astonishing. English sparklers shouldn't be just novelty or patriotic choices anymore, they really should be the first port of call if bubbles are your thing. The problem I guess is branding, and the Champagne region has done so well in recent years persuading us all that their overpriced products are the only acceptable gifts for a celebration.

Name association is a curious thing but in much the same way as we all still shop for a Hoover but come back with a Dyson or a Shark, we need to get past the snob value associated with Champagne and accept it as a style rather than a product. Once that happens, and the day isn't far off, our home grown market really will be the king of the castle.


Watford Observer:

Black Chalk Classic 2015

A traditional blend of the three classic Champagne grapes, this is a gorgeous wine. A little bit of time left on the lees followed by some time in oak have added a complexity similar to the best of Pol Roger. This one really is up there with the best in the world.

Blackchalkwine.co.uk £35

Watford Observer:

Coates & Seely Rosé

Pale salmon in colour with a floral nose and crushed strawberries on the palate. The finish is clean and crisp. Seriously folks, I can't recall a finer rosé sparkler and it’s as English as the white cliffs of Dover.

Coatesandseely.com £32.95

Watford Observer:

Wiston Blanc De Blanc NV

Delicate, tantalizing hints of fruit on the nose with a really elegant palate. There's something chablis like about this which is great for me as I love the style. I can imagine this would be a corker with a crab salad or shellfish.

Wistonestate.com £29.50

  • Gerard Richardson is a wine columnist for Newsquest