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, best albariño wines to buy, plus find out the lowdown on oaked wine and Italian sparkling wine.


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.

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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

Chapel Down English Sparkling Wine

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.

Available from:
Waitrose (£19.99)
Harvey Nichols (£19)

Dunleavy Sparkling Red

Dunleavy red fizz

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.

Available from:
Dunleavy Vineyards (£31.95)

Lyme Bay Winery Brut Reserve

LYme Bay Brut reserve

Best English sparkling wine to pair with food

Award-winning Devon bubbles with a gentle, honeyed richness.

Available from:
Lyme Bay Winery (£26.99)

The Uncommon English Rosé Spritzer

The Uncommon Peggy Rosé Wine Spritzer

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.

Available from:
Ocado (£4.50)

Hambledon Classic Cuvée

Hambledon Classic Cuvée

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.

Available from:
Ocado (£30)
Waitrose Cellar (£32)

Ridgeview Fitzrovia Rosé

RIdgeview Sparkling Rose Bottle Waitrose

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.

Available from:
Waitrose (£35)

Waitrose Leckford Estate Brut

Waitrose Leckford Estate Brut

Best supermarket English sparkling wine

Complex and creamy with ripe peaches, crunchy apples and a soft, buttery richness.

Available from:
Waitrose (£29.99)


Check out more regional wine guides here:

Best Georgian wine
Best Jura wine
Best Sicilian wine
Best Greek wine
Best German wine
Best Hungarian wine
Best South African wine
Best Portuguese red wine
Best malbec wine
Best Stellenbosch wine
Best urban wines


Kate HawkingsWine Columnist

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