Best English sparkling wine to buy
olive's wine expert on the best English sparkling wine to buy, plus why experimental English fizz is worth exploring
Looking for the best English sparkling wine? Want to know our pick of English sparkling wine producers? Read our expert guide then check out our favourite vineyards in the UK for tours, tastings and overnight stays among the vines. Or venture over to the continent with our review of the best German wines to buy and best albariño wines to buy.
About English sparkling wine
A generation ago, the idea that English wine could hold its own against that of continual Europe was laughable. A few mavericks were making wine, more for interest than acclaim, but when, in 1998, Nyetimber won the trophy for Best Sparkling Wine in the World, the game changed completely.
Massive investment in plantings and wineries followed, concentrated in the South East whose chalk-rich soils are formed from the same geological strata found in the Champagne region of France. Aided by rising temperatures, production of English wine boomed in the following 20 years.
There are now 164 wineries in England, using grapes from some 500 vineyards scattered from Cornwall to Yorkshire, producing millions of bottles a year; 70% of this is sparkling wine, most of which should be properly termed ‘English Quality Sparkling Wine’, a badge guaranteeing it is made in the champagne style, from the classic champagne grapes (pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier) using the méthode champenoise. These are the wines that have garnered the most attention, frequently beating fine champagne into a cocked beret in blind tastings – my current favourites include Hambledon, Black Chalk and Simpson’s. But this is not the whole story: there’s a new wave of great English sparkling wines that are most definitely not wannabe champagnes.
While producers of the most famous English fizz are backed by big bucks, others have smaller budgets so adapt accordingly. Some grow grapes on rented land and use local wineries to make their wine in rural idylls; others buy in grapes from trusted growers and make wine in their urban wineries, a trend from the US that’s taking off here.
Many are taking a leaf out of the natural wine movement’s book, using organic or biodynamic fruit and aiming for minimal intervention in the vineyards and the winery. While some are using the méthode champenoise, others are making pétillant naturel, known as ‘pét nat’ and beloved by natural-wine fans, when the wine is bottled before fermentation is complete, producing carbon dioxide in the bottle. These wines tend to be cloudy, but don’t be alarmed – this comes from harmless yeast sediments that haven’t been removed as they would with méthode champenoise wines. Others use the charmat method, the same as prosecco, when the wine is carbonated in steel tanks before bottling to add the bubbles, giving fresh and frothy, affordable fizz.
Fair play to the pristine EQSWs that have put the English wine industry on the map, but there now are other English bubbles to which we should also raise a toast. Cheers!
Best English sparkling wines at a glance
- Best classic English sparkling wine: Chapel Down Sparkling Bacchus 2019, £19.99
- Best English sparkling red wine: Dunleavy Sparkling Red, £31.95
- Best English sparkling wine to pair with food: Lyme Bay Winery Brut Reserve, £26.99
- Best canned English sparkling wine: The Uncommon English Rosé Spritzer, £4.50
- Best luxury English sparkling wine: Hambledon Classic Cuvée, £32
- Best English sparkling rosé: Ridgeview Fitzrovia Rosé, £35
- Best supermarket English sparkling wine: Waitrose Leckford Estate Brut, £29.99
Best English sparkling wine to buy
Chapel Down Sparkling Bacchus 2019
- Available from Waitrose (£19.99), Harvey Nichols (£19)
Best classic English sparkling wine
With its notes of elderflower and juicy tropical fruit, the bacchus grape will appeal to fans of new-world sauvignon blanc. This is just off-dry so suits a little gentle spice – serve it with chickpea fritters.
Harvey Nichols (£19)
Dunleavy Sparkling Red
- Available from Dunleavy Vineyards (£31.95)
Best English sparkling red wine
A rare English sparkling red, made from 100% rondo grapes. Crunchy redcurrant with a hint of rhubarb: great for a barbecue.
Dunleavy Vineyards (£31.95)
Lyme Bay Winery Brut Reserve
- Available from Lyme Bay Winery (£26.99)
Best English sparkling wine to pair with food
Award-winning Devon bubbles with a gentle, honeyed richness.
Lyme Bay Winery (£26.99)
The Uncommon English Rosé Spritzer
- Available from Ocado (£4.50)
Best canned English sparkling wine
This smart can is infused with hawthorn berries, rose and lavender, and weighs in at a modest 5.5% abv. Perfect for a picnic.
Hambledon Classic Cuvée
- Available from Ocado (£30), Waitrose Cellar (£32)
Best luxury English sparkling wine
Hambledon was the first commercial vineyard in the UK, planted in 1952 by an English diplomat who noticed the similarity of the soils here with those in Champagne. Today, it produces some of our very best fizz and this (cuvée means a specific blend, or batch, of wine) is always a winner. Toasty notes along with crisp apple fruit and a sharp, clean finish.
Waitrose Cellar (£32)
Ridgeview Fitzrovia Rosé
- Available from Waitrose (£35)
Best English sparkling rosé
This was served by the Queen to Barack Obama at a Buckingham Palace banquet, which is surely the highest of praises for this acclaimed winery in Sussex. Delicate salmon colour with crunchy redcurrant fruit, it goes as well with smoked salmon as it does with a bowl of strawberries.
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Waitrose Leckford Estate Brut
- Available from Waitrose (£29.99)
Best supermarket English sparkling wine
Complex and creamy with ripe peaches, crunchy apples and a soft, buttery richness.
Check out more regional wine guides here:
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