There was no Champagne served at the recent state banquet for President Obama’s visit to Britain. Instead, the world’s most powerful man was treated to a sparkling white from Sussex. Doesn’t sound terribly glamorous, does it? Well, the English would beg to differ.
Champagne is a cool climate region, which is what helps achieve that refreshing trademark acidity. Vineyards on the south coast of England are just a couple of hundred miles from the Champagne region. The climate is similar and the soil is perfectly suited to grapes used in the production of sparkling wine and this has seen a considerable rise in the plantings of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.
The rise in quality sparkling wine in England has much to do with improved winemaking expertise. Richard Balfour-Lynn is one of England’s top winemakers. Speaking to the Daily Mail, he believes that the UK government needs to do more to make their domestic products more competitive with that of other New World countries.
‘The UK pays the same duty rates as the other European countries and this make it more difficult for English wines to compete against wines from Chile, South Africa or Australia. For English still wines to succeed quality must be protected and the prices need to be competitive – and without some sort of Government subsidy on duty this may prove difficult.’
One of his main concerns is over competitiveness of the English still wines in particular, as for the best part they do not have as good a price – quality ratio. Quality wines from South Africa and Chile are produced much more cheaply due to lower operating costs. Sparkling wines competing on a level of quality similar to Champagne will not be quite as price sensitive because Champagne already attracts a premium margin.
If I’m not mistaken he was served Ridgeview, which is an excellent English sparkler (Diploma students got it before Mr Obama!) and can be bought in O’Brien’s for those who want to try it.
We have one coming in soon – Coates & Seely from the Hampshire Downs. http://www.box.net/shared/9ag7d0nc06n5xokm5apm
So was it a good effort to a Champagne around the same price, Dermot?
I have tried a few English sparklers too Matt, the name that springs to mind is Nyetimber, have had a few different vintages and was very impressed with all of them. M&S do one too, don’t know the name, it’s around €26 and is very fresh and clean, lovely stuff!!!
Ye should definitely look into them.