With Christmas less than two weeks away, there’s no better time than to pop open a bottle of delicious sparkling wine to kick off the festivities.
This selection is quite Blanc de Blancs-focussed, as initially I had thought those beaming Chardonnay traits and English sparkling energy would be perfect alongside festive seafood and turkey. As such, I’ve selected a quartet of delicious English Blanc de Blancs from Chapel Down (£40.00) Langham Wine Estate (£31.00), Charles Palmer (£29.00) and Ashling Park (£37.50).
But it doesn’t end there. I also sampled a few other really striking English sparkling wines whilst compiling this article that I just had to include. Hush Heath’s new Les Sixes (£50.00) is a prolific six-grape blend that will certainly delight and intrigue with its multi-faceted complexities. And then Roebuck’s new Rosé de Noirs (£40.00) is a proud and joyous rosé, packed full of red fruit and biscuit character that is just calling for festive food pairing.
Hush Heath Balfour Les Sixes 2014
Grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier,
Pinot Blanc, Arbane, & Petit Meslier
This is a fascinating wine. Outside of the well-known, Chardonnay and Pinots Noir, Meunier, Blanc and Gris, there are two other grapes that are occasionally used in the production of Champagne, namely Arbane and Petit Meslier. Hush Heath were the first winery in England to plant these varieties, and this brand new Les Sixes is the resulting cuvée, blending with Chardonnay and a trio of Pinots for a first of its kind English sparkling.
The nose on this wine is a little shy initially but opens up to a curious mixture of red apple, pear, brioche and toasted hazelnut.
The palate also proves to be quite distinctive. It’s brisk and energetic up-front, with crisp apples and citrus bursts, but that softens again to a nutty mid-taste with hints of almond nougat with savoury complexities.
Superbly structured, with a really fine, lingering length, this wine is a real treat for those who are looking for something a bit different to try.
Langham Blanc de Blancs 2015
Langham has had a knockout year. I’ve been super impressed with the evolution of their wine style over the last couple of years, moving away from a fruit-forward crowd-pleasing style and more into textural, nuanced sparkling wine expression. Oh, and just last month they were announced as IWSC Best Sparkling Wine Producer… in the world.
What I loved about this wine was that it really contrasted with my expectations. There’s the expected orchard fruit, but it was the underlying savoury, yoghurt and nutty notes that really stood out.
To taste, again, this presented a thought-provoking, complex journey. Initially quite tight and linear, I enjoyed how the Langham broadened to a savoury, nutty fusion which has a real sense of presence on the palate.
This is a brilliant buy, and, at £31.00 a bottle, it provides incredible value for money. Think complex grower Champagne without the swelling price tag.
Roebuck Estates Rosé de Noirs 2016
Grapes: Pinot Noir
Completing a trio of brilliant wines from Roebuck Estates this year, the new Rosé de Noirs 2016 is made from Pinot Noir from their Roman Villa site in West Sussex which was planted in 2007.
What I enjoyed about this wine was that it was a proper rosé.
Sparkling rosé can sometimes feel like an afterthought, but this is proudly red fruit- centric. Think strawberry shortbread in a glass, a perfect melding of ripe strawberry flavours and freshly baked shortbread textures with that unmistakable tingling English freshness of citrus and cranberry.
The Roebuck drinks beautifully solo, and would also be great as a wine to kick off a Christmas day meal – pair with something traditional like Prawn Cocktail or even a fancy Lobster Bisque.
Ashling Park Blanc de Blancs 2014
Ashling Park is one of the rising stars of 2020, having won a flurry of Gold Medals and Trophies this year in the WineGB Awards. This wine is once again made by Dermot Sugrue.
Less fruit-forward than your average 2014 sparkling (it was a warm vintage), this wine is all about the nutty almond, marzipan, brown butter and fragrant floral aromas.
With a curious and complex nose, this also really impresses on the palate with those classic Sugrue characteristics. Bright, brilliant acidity and pungent citrus energy lead to a rampant abundance of caramelised orchard fruit, nutty nougat and crisp pastry.
At a sub-£40 price point, this is another excellent buy that punches well above its price point. It’s a lot of wine for a modest price point.
Kit’s Coty Blanc de Blancs 2015
Coming from Chapel Down’s famed Kit’s Coty Vineyard, this is one of my go-to Blanc de Blancs and would be perfect to kick off the big day in style.
The Kit’s Coty Blanc de Blancs always exhibits a rich generosity, and the 2015 is no different. Baked apple pudding aromas, ripe pear and peach with buttery brioche hints all draw you in.
The palate is also quite fruit-forward, as the nose suggests, with juicy peach, ripe orchard fruit and a good dollop of buttery richness. There’s a bright, crisp citrus cut-through, and the finish is where this wine really shines with a touch of lemon zest and minerality.
Charles Palmer Blanc de Blancs 2015
This is one of the tastiest wines I’ve had from Charles Palmer in East Sussex. It’s made from 100% Burgundy (clone 95 for those that like to know) grapes, which I think bring a real generosity to the fruit here.
On the nose this is very classic, with white peach, apricot, hints of caramelised apples (think baked apple puddings) and buttery pastry notes.
To taste, there’s an intense rush of tangy apples and citrus energy. That classic English acidity is softened by riper stone fruit, honeyed pastry and warm buttery brioche.
Also worth noting is that this is also really well-priced. In fact, at £29.00 a bottle, it’s something of a steal!
In part two of the April round-up, John tastes through seven diverse sparkling rosé wines.
For the latest in the English Vertical Series, John tastes through eight vintages of Chapel Down's flagship Kit's Coty Chardonnay.
John takes a look at a selection of still and sparkling English Chardonnay.
John takes a look at some of the latest and most exciting new English sparkling wine releases just in time for Christmas.
John tastes through seven vintages of Balfour Brut Rosé, including the newly released 2008 Archive Collection.
John tastes through four delicious sparkling wines and two textural 2021 still wines in his October round-up.