All I Want for Christmas… Is English Sparkling Wine

It’s become something of a tradition for me to cast aside my monthly round-up in December in favour of some sort of festive-themed round-up. I had originally planned to look at some of my favourite wines, still and sparkling from throughout the year, and how they could pair with festive food. However, I kept coming back to English Sparkling specifically. While it’s been a tremendous year for English wines in general, I feel the consistency and breadth of English Sparkling Wine styles have really taken another big step forward this year.

What’s more, I felt there were a lot of sublime sparkling wines that really deserved some attention from me but didn’t quite make it in time for features or articles. These are all, however, unquestionably superb choices to open, to celebrate with, and indulge in during this most wonderful time of the year.

I’ve split the wines into three categories: Christmas Morning Bubbles (light and fresh), The Main Event (what to open with Christmas Dinner) and A Touch of Indulgence, the latter of which I think speaks for itself and is a look at a trio of indulgent prestige options.

So, without further ado, please read on for my nine sparkling wine suggestions. There are some not unsurprisingly big names and big hitters in here that guarantee instant gratification, but also a good selection of new names and rising stars that hold their own amongst the established producers.

Christmas Morning Toast

Hunter Brut 2018

Grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier

Region: Sussex

This is a delicious first harvest from 2018 from five year old vines. The Hunter Brut is pleasingly golden, with a nose of baked apple, peach skin with croissant and orange blossom.

To taste, this wine has an inviting peachy generosity. It’s fruit-forward with stone fruit and tropical hits thanks to the warm 2018 vintage, but the acidity is lively, and the roasted almond notes really add some excellent structure. A superb wine to toast the festivities with.

Buy from Hunter – £27.50

Saffron Grange Blanc de Noirs 2018

Grapes: Pinot Meunier

Region: Essex

We now head over to Essex and Saffron Grange for their first take on a Blanc de Noirs. Made from 100% Pinot Meunier, this is a brisk but intricately textured sparkling wine.

The nose has classic hints of cranberry, cherry and orange blossom, but I also picked up hints of savoury and pear drops. The palate begins with a brisk and crunchy bite – mostly cranberry and red apple, with some punchy citrus notes. This is less weighty than some Blanc de Noirs can be.

Buy from Saffron Grange – £35.00

Bride Valley Rosé Bella 2018

Grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier

Region: Dorset

Made from 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay, this is a colourful Dorset rosé with a brilliant freshness that I think will work a treat on Christmas morning.

The nose is packed full of cherry and cranberry aromas, as well as hints of apple and citrus zest. To taste there’s a pleasing red fruit warmth that wraps around a core of crunchy red apple, lemon and a hint of rhubarb. I usually enjoy a generous serving of smoked salmon to accompany present opening, and think the racy acidity in this would pair superbly.

Buy from Bride Valley – £35.95

The Main Event

Woolton Cuvée No.1 2015

Grapes: Chardonnay & Pinot Noir

Region: Kent

This is my second wine from Woolton in Kent, and quite a contrast to the Pét-Nat Chardonnay I tasted just over a month back. It’s a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and Woolton worked with winemaker, Ulrich Hoffmann, to produce this wine.

The nose suggests some nice development, with notes of baked apple, creamy brioche and biscuit. The palate also shows maturity, with a red and green apple bite softening to baked apples, peachiness and creamy textures. There’s a nice weight to this wine but also acidity to keep everything in check – all the qualities needed to form a sparkling wine that can stand up to a strong roast dinner pairing.

Buy from Woolton – £44.00

Coolhurst Lady Elizabeth Rosé 2017

Grapes: Pinot Noir

Region: Sussex

This is one of those complex, textured rosés that always tastes as good as it looks. This wine exudes elegance and indulgence from the pull-to-open ribbon to the taste of 100% Pinot Noir richness.

The nose is superbly nuanced, with cranberry, cherry and raspberry notes, as well as hints of savoury and winter spice. To taste, the relative leanness of the 2017 vintage gives the wine a brisk, crunchy cranberry and raspberry bite, but there’s the deeper spiced cherry, almost black fruit notes and winter spice that give this wine lasting presence.

Buy from Coolhurst – £42.00

Denbies Cubitt Blanc de Noirs 2015

Grapes: Pinot Noir

Region: Surrey

I raved about the Denbies Blanc de Noirs in my September round-up, and this 2015 vintage magnum is another impressive release. The nose is an immediate delight, packed with toasted brioche, sourdough, cranberry and red apple with hints of dried apricot and gingerbread.

To taste, the lively acidity and tangy red berries keep it brisk and fresh, but the mid-taste is weighty and structured, delivering on the promise of a bready, savoury mix with stone fruit pastry. A very generous and giving wine that’s calling out for Christmas Dinner.

Buy from Denbies – £75.00

A Touch of Indulgence

Hundred Hills Preamble 2016 First Edition

Grapes: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Region: Oxfordshire

I see this as a superb celebratory wine, especially as we opened a bottle to kick off a week of celebrations marking my daughter’s second birthday last month. It’s also particularly special as the inaugural release from one of England’s most exclusive wine producers.

The resulting wine is a striking fusion of intense freshness and luscious development. On the nose there are aromas of lemon zest, orchard blossom as well as baked apples and peach, with a sprinkling of nutty pastry.

To taste, the brisk acidity bursts through and enlivens the palate in a way that only English Sparkling does. But it’s the juxtaposition of that acidity, the tenderness of the fruit and supple creamy textures that stand out.

Buy from Hundred Hills – £63.00

Nyetimber Tillington 2013

Grapes: Pinot Noir & Chardonnay

Region: Sussex

This is set to become something of a Christmas tradition in the Mobbs household – kicking off Christmas with a bottle of Nyetimber Tillington. This limited single vineyard release is a red-dominant blend of 76% Pinot Noir and 24% Chardonnay, and is perhaps the most precise expression in the Nyetimber range.

This is ageing really nicely, and whilst retaining the racy citrus freshness of the 2013 vintage, has a brioche and roasted nut complexity that is starting to set in. Honeyed textures and nutty tones are a gently seasoning that do not distract from the elegance and poise.

Tillington remains a gentle giant – certainly not the ‘biggest’ English Sparkling Wine, but one that rewards the drinker with its refinement and finesse.

Buy from Grape Britannia – £94.99

Sugrue South Downs Cuvée Dr Brendan O’Regan

Grapes: Chardonnay & Pinot Noir

Region: Sussex

Sugrue’s Cuvée Dr Brendan O’Regan is one of the most cherished examples of English Sparkling Wine there is. Based on the 2016 vintage, this is a Chardonnay-dominant blend of 60% with 40% Pinot Noir.

The nose on this latest bottling is initially all about orchard fruit and citrus, then a complex twist of roasted oat biscuit and browned toast. On the palate this wine has all the classic Sugrue tropes: racy acidity, tingling crystalline vibrancy, precise fruit and deftly integrated oak textures and spice.

It almost feels like a crime to be drinking this so young; it’s undoubtedly going to be exceptional for those who practise patience. However, there’s no denying that it’s already decadently gorgeous and dangerously drinkable right now!

Buy from Grape Britannia – £95.00
Posted in Monthly Round-Up.

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  1. Pingback: Latest Wine Headlines: December 6—10 - Briscoe Bites

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