It’s all too easy to get caught up in the indulgence and expenditure of the festive period. And after the roast meats, the expensive presents, and the very best English sparkling (or Champagne) and Burgundy (or Kentish Pinot) served on Christmas day; there’s often a need to make New Year’s Eve a bit more pocket-friendly,
English wine is typically sold at a premium; and rightly so, considering both the quality of our home-grown offerings and the efforts (and expense) the winemakers go through to produce them.
However, there’s a growing selection of own-label sparkling wines appearing in supermarkets up and down the country. This article features four really decent own-label traditional method sparkling wines from Aldi (Lyme Block Brut Reserve - £16.99), Tesco (Finest by Hush Heath - £18.00), Morrisons (The Best Sparkling - £18.00) and Sainsbury’s (Taste the Difference - £20.50).
But then there are the innovators, who have looked at less time-intensive production methods to produce more cost-effective, entry-level sparkling offerings. Aldi's Masterstroke (£9.99) is the cheapest home-grown fizz on the market. It employs the Charmat method, popularised by Prosecco, to produce a crowd-pleasing drop of bubbly at a price previously thought impossible. Meanwhile, Bacchus mavericks Chapel Down released their carbonated Bacchus 2018 (£17.99 - Waitrose & Majestic) this year, which has gone on to be a runaway success and is an excellent alternative.
Lyme Block Brut Reserve
REGION: Devon GRAPES: Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Reichensteiner, Seyval Blanc & Solaris
Probably the highest-profile own-label release for a whole, Devon’s Lyme Bay has teamed once again with Aldi to release the third wine in the Lyme Block range. This is a traditional method blend that calls on both the ‘classic Champagne’ grape varieties as well as those more historically grown in England.
The Lyme Block is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Reichensteiner, Seyval Blanc & Solaris, and I picked up on more of an aromatic, fruit-forward character that these additional varieties bring to the mix. There’s aromas of peach, mango and pear, with hints of honeysuckle and light toasty notes.
The taste is generously fruit-forward too, with waves of pear, stone fruit and even tropical fruit flavours coming through, cut through nicely by crisp citrus and apple.
There is a toasty, creamy warmth to the way the Lyme Block tastes, complementing both the ripe fruit and crisp character of the wine. Overall, very well balanced and certainly one of the best I’ve tasted in the sub £20 price range.
- Buy from Aldi £16.99
Tesco Finest English Sparkling
REGION: Kent GRAPES: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
This Tesco own-label , produced by Hush Heath, was first released three years ago. I’ll admit that I wasn’t a huge fan of the original release, but the current offering is a vast improvement.
The Tesco Finest English Sparkling is a classic blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
It’s got a lovely golden hue to it, and a ripe and ready nose of baked apple and pear pudding, with suggestions of patisserie and nuts.
It really satisfies on the palate too, with a brisk, fresh citrus and crunchy apple profile upfront. Then, softer waves of peach and apple pie, with a clean but firm finish. Well made and really well balanced.
- Buy from Tesco £19.00
Taste the Difference English Sparkling 2015
REGION: Surrey GRAPES: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay & Pinot Meunier
This has been a firm Great British Wine favourite since our original Own Label tasting a couple of years back, and at £20.50, often reduced less on a mix 6 promotion, it’s an absolute bargain. It’s a Pinot Noir dominant blend of the big three sparkling varieties and has spent around three years on lees prior to release.
There is a promising beginning with a lovely bronzed colour and an opulent nose of white peach, with warm brioche and hints of red berry fruit.
To taste, the TtD was noticeably fuller and richer than the other wines featured in this line-up, with a sea of ripe orchard fruit flavours. There are apples and pears, leading to fleshy, juicy peach notes that are incredibly welcoming.
It’s a tad on the sweet side for me personally, but the balance with the driving acidity and light biscuit notes makes this a very appealing wine. Another very solid vintage from Denbies.
- Buy from Sainsbury's £20.50
Morrisons The Best English Sparkling
REGION: Sussex GRAPES: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
This was the better performing of two relatively newly released English sparkling wines from Morrisons (the vintage 2010 version lacked the drive and determination of this youthful NV). It’s a classic blend of Chardonnay and the two Pinots that has aged for approximately 2 years on lees.
The nose on this was a little muted, though strikingly clean with citrus peel, green apple and light stone fruit notes. It did open with a little time in the glass, where hints of pastry and toasted nut show through.
To taste, this was very refreshing, with crunchy green orchard fruit, a hint of honeydew melon and those light biscuit notes.
Overall, a really well-made wine that demonstrates great typicity as a young English sparkling wine. A good buy for £18.
- Buy from Morrisons £18.00
Chapel Down Sparkling Bacchus
REGION: Kent GRAPES: Bacchus
Perhaps the most unconventional of all sparkling wines made in England right now, Chapel Down opted for carbonation of its vibrant 2018 Bacchus, with a higher residual of 12g/l.
This is a real winner on the palate, as it’s got that intense fusion of tropical fruit, zesty citrus fruits and floral notes that is immediately Bacchus-like.
The wine has retained the excellent fruit purity, while the lighter, softer bubbles and relatively generous (but not overwhelming) sweetness keep it easy drinking.
This sparkling Bacchus is playful and fun, and it's also hugely drinkable, especially for those who are partial to a glass or two of Prosecco. It’s not overly complex or involving, but that’s because it’s not trying to be. It’s Bacchus, and it’s proud!
Angel & Four Masterstroke Sparkling
REGION: Sussex GRAPES: Reichensteiner,Madeleine Angevine & Seyval Blanc
Charmat method, the same method entrusted by Prosecco producers where the secondary fermentation takes place in tank rather than the bottle, appears to be here to stay in England. Flint Vineyard and Fitz have led the way so far, but Angel and Four are the new name on the scene, and they’ve arrived to market with a sub £10 fizz for Aldi that has been ruffling a lot of feathers.
Blend wise; the Masterstroke is made up of 50% Reichensteiner, 25% Madeleine Angevine and 25% Seyval Blanc, presumably all from the 2018 harvest, hence the fruit ripeness that is evident.
Aromatically, it’s a fresh blend of citrus and green orchard fruits, with hedgerow notes.
To taste, it’s pleasingly crisp and not anywhere near as sweet as I expected. As such, the fruit really speaks, with bags of crisp green apple and fleshy honeydew melon, mango and peach flavours. The finish is relatively short, but all pretence aside, it drinks very well considering the price.
Is it sustainable at this price? Is the message of Charmat vs traditional method confusing to the consumer? All very valid questions. But for now, this is a very valiant effort and sure to please consumers as an affordable, easy-drinking introduction to our home-grown fizz.
- Available in store at Aldi - £9.99
For this month's round-up, John puts the focus back on English sparkling, with six top new wine picks.
John takes a festive look at some top English sparkling to enjoy over the Christmas and new year period.
Matt talks through his indulgent festive 2020 selection from Grape Britannia including prestige sparkling, white, red and dessert wine and a rare aged brandy.
As the colder months set in, John takes a look at some of the fantastic English Pinot Noir available right now.
John tastes through ten delicious and diverse examples of English Bacchus, which demonstrate just why this is the white grape of choice in England right now.
This month's round-up features three deliciously different English sparkling wines, a trio of fresh Bacchus and a striking white blend from Devon.