When I first started reading up and occasionally blogging about English fizz, it was a cult product, something unknown to the masses – a gimmick even: all of a sudden there was such thing as British wine and it wasn’t all that bad. Over the years, thanks to newspapers, TV and the introduction into many big-name retailers' assortments, English fizz is as popular as it never before was and even the Olympics, the Queen’s Jubilee and the Royal Wedding ensured national awareness of what is fast becoming a national treasure itself.
There have been bumps along the way though: last year’s harvest was pitiful and I remember seeing twitter full of complaints from most of the UK’s vineyards – the biggest name in English sparkling wine Nyetimber apparently wrote off its entire crop for 2012 at a cost of £10m. Tiny production amounts mean that importing English fizz just isn’t possible and, let’s be honest, if the vintners were able, how much of it would actually sell on the continent – think Champagne, Prosecco, Cava and don’t forget Britain’s image to Europeans – a cold rainy island in the North Sea – as wrong as that might be, it’s written into stereotype, it’s going to take a lot more than the marketing budgets of a few small South English vineyards to change that.
Whilst the still wine scene might be in its infancy, the fizzy stuff is the nuts: it’s unique, it’s classy and it’s well-made. It’s also not too badly priced with the most expensive bottles being in that £30 Champagne entry-level bracket. Most English fizz is Vintage too at that price, unlike the stuff from Northern France.
What I’m saying is that the bubbly stuff is wonderful and, if I was in the position to do so, I’d regularly substitute a bottle of Champagne for an English sparkling wine and, whilst the situation might have been so at the beginning, it’s got nothing to do with me being a quirky nationalist: I genuinely believe (and know) that the wines from Sussex, Kent, Cornwall and Co. are very good: they might not be Dom Pérignon or Krug but they don’t need to be, most of us can’t afford that kind of wine anyway!
So here are my favourite English sparklers – I’ve tried quite a few and these are the ones I rate the highest based on taste, price and availability. I’ve listed the retailers underneath, for German and other non-British readers, please scroll right to the bottom for information on obtaining these wines.
Getting hold of these wines outside of the UK
I've spoken to the lovely guys at English Sparkling Wine and they've assured me that they can deliver outside of the UK (obviously with a few extra costs for shipping). Contact them directly for more infomation on pricing for where you live. If you need any more assistance regarding the obtaining of these wines, please get in touch and I'll do my best.