With Christmas fast approaching, I’ve put together a shortlist of my five favourite and most memorable prestige English Sparkling Wines. These wines are perfect for those who want to splash out on something extraordinary and home grown to enjoy on Christmas Day.
It’s been a year and a half since our ‘Prestige English Sparkling Spotlight Tasting’, which took a look at the small selection of flagship cuvées that English winemakers were producing. In the 18 months that have followed, the market has matured dramatically. Many producers are pushing the envelope, both in terms of quality and price point. As always, Nyetimber has been at the forefront of this push, adding its Prestige Cuvée 1086 wines, priced at £150, and £175 for the rosé version, to its already impressive line-up. Meanwhile, Chapel Down’s latest Coeur de Cuvée 2014 feels like a true realisation of its Kit’s Coty vineyard; it’s also quite possibly my favourite wine of the whole year. County-mates Gusbourne are also working on something extraordinary, which has yet to be revealed, but we’ve had a glimpse of how a Gusbourne prestige wine might taste with their very limited release Late Disgorged wines.
One of the biggest and most anticipated new wine releases this year was Hambledon’s Première Cuvée Rosé. This 100% Pinot Meunier beauty didn’t disappoint, with its potent, almost Burgundian depth and splendour. Meanwhile, ever the flag bearer for the pinnacle of English Sparkling, Dermot Sugrue’s Cuvée Dr Brendan O’Regan is still the one to beat, with its combination of signature, racy acidity and indulgent, complex depths.
Chapel Down Kit’s Coty Coeur de Cuvée 2014
REGION: Kent GRAPES: Chardonnay
While the inaugural vintage (2013) of Chapel Down’s flagship Coeur de Cuvée was a little bit of a slow burner, this year’s follow up release is an absolute stonker of a wine!
It’s made from the heart of the first pressing of the very best Chardonnay from the acclaimed Kit’s Coty vineyard.
The Coeur de Cuvée tempts you with its alluring nose of toasted nuts, red apple, almond croissant and crystalline minerality. It’s so exquisite but with just a suggestion of tropical, fleshy fruit to taunt you.
The taste is outstanding with brilliant driving acidity with all that nutty character, vibrant citrus and orchard fruit. It’s all rounded off with subtle creamy textures and a suggestion of warm, ripe stone fruits. A true delight that demonstrates just how far English wine has come.
- Buy from Chapel Down £100.00
Nyetimber 1086 Prestige Cuvée 2010
REGION: Sussex GRAPES: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
Now in its second vintage, Nyetimber continues to up the stakes in prestige English Sparkling. It’s made from the very best fruit from West Sussex, and is a blend of 45% Chardonnay, 44% Pinot Noir and 11% Pinot Meunier.
The aromas are intricate and refined with a classic almond croissant and toasted nut complexity that leapt out of the glass immediately, supported by ripe English orchard fruit and citrus peel aromas.
To taste, the 1086 Vintage 2010 greets you with a vibrant, tangy citrus and orchard fruit fusion that softens to riper stone fruit flavours. The mid-taste is surrounded by a creamy, nutty nougat richness which envelops and complements the radiant fruit flavours.
This wine’s price (£150) and presentation makes a huge statement but it’s Nyetimber’s quality and precise approach that makes it a standout.
- Buy from Fortnum & Mason £150.00
Hambledon Première Cuvée Rosé
REGION: Hampshire GRAPES: Pinot Meunier
Hambledon’s new Première Cuvée Rosé NV is a first of its kind in the English Sparkling Wine category. It’s made exclusively from the Pinot Meunier grape, and released with zero dosage.
This wine is so packed full of character and intensity that it commands attention from the word go. Firstly you’ll notice the colour - strikingly deep for an English rosé, perhaps more of a nod to a light red wine.
On the nose, there are wild winter berries, pomegranate with savoury warmth and a Burgundian nuance of forest floor and toasted oak. Served blind, you could almost be fooled that you were sniffing a Pinot from Burgundy.
To taste, it’s also an intense flavour sensation, bursting with tangy red berries and hints of darker, spiced winter fruit. The Première Cuvée Rosé has such a rich, savoury depth to it that it’s my ultimate choice for food pairing experimentation - just perfect for all that Christmas Day richness!
- Buy from Hambledon Vineyard £69.50
Gusbourne Late Disgorged Twenty Ten
REGION: Kent GRAPES: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
Released in extremely limited quantities, and on sale from the cellar door only, Gusbourne’s Late Disgorged wines give a rare glimpse into the fantastic ageing potential of their wines.
The LD 2010 is a blend of 68% Chardonnay, 22% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Meunier. The bottle I tasted recently had an impressive 91 months on lees, and a further 12 months under cork.
The nose is classic 2010 English sparkling territory: vibrant citrus peel, bright orchard fruit, with hints of peach, brioche and baked shortbread. This is a triumphant fusion of the laser-sharp freshness of English sparkling with the complex, autolytic character of extended lees ageing.
There’s bags of fruit purity in the form of juicy red apples and white peach, and it still tastes incredibly youthful. It’s drinking wonderfully now, but will still be outstanding in another five or ten years.
Sugrue Cuvée Dr Brendan O’Regan
REGION: Sussex GRAPES: Chardonnay & Pinot Noir
This signature Cuvée from Dermot Sugrue has been the benchmark high-end English sparkling ever since our first Prestige Spotlight feature, and it still sits on the very top shelf of quality English bubbles.
It’s a blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, predominantly from the 2013 harvest, blended with reserve wines from the 2009 vintage.
The nose on this is stunning and sophisticated, with toasted nuts, baked apple, dried apricot and lots of toasty, bready aromas.
To taste, the Cuvée Dr BOR is a textural journey of chiselled, angular freshness and precision, integrated seamlessly into layer upon layer of toasted nut complexity, soft brioche textures and dried citrus peel length. An absolute triumph, and still the must-try top-end English sparkler.
- Buy from Dermot Sugrue £79.00