Gone are the days when fans of stylish fizz automatically headed for champers as their tipple of choice.
With fast growing numbers opting for England’s homegrown – and increasingly award-winning sparkling wines.
“Champagne, with its huge production, still dominates in major wine competitions, but in the 2019 International Wine Challenge, for example, England took 10 gold medals against 36 for champagne and six for the rest of the world,” points out Liz Sagues, award-wining wine writer and author of A Celebration of English Wine (Robert Hale 2018).
There are several reasons why English sparkling wines are doing so well, she believes: “A warming climate – which brings riper grapes but also creates new problems – is important, but so too is the increased skill and professionalism of the people who grow the grapes and make the wine, alongside huge attention to detail when it comes to picking the right spots to grow vines and major investment in establishing and running wineries.”
Sussex and Hampshire tend to head the medal tables, with Kent hard on their heels. “But great fizz come from all over southern England and beyond,” says Sagues, who adds that English wine looks set to be in for an even brighter future.
“A lot of factors have come together to make this a brilliant time for the home industry and English fizz will only get better as vines age and wines mature, resulting in even finer results.”
The following recommendations come from the IndyBest team, who have worked their way through the best known brands, and some lesser known ones, to bring you their top picks for this summer and beyond.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Hattingley Valley rosé 2015
This Hampshire vineyard’s sparkling rosé scooped a gold at this year’s International Wine Challenge, and it’s not hard to see why this fresh, beautifully balanced wine won over the judges. With a delicate salmon pink hue and soft mousse, it has aromas of bright red fruit and summer berries, leading on to strawberry on the palate, with a creamy texture and toasty notes. We love it on its own or, if you’re feeling decadent, it goes a treat with lobster. We’re impressed with its new light and crisp still rosé too – another award winner.
Buy now £36.00, Hattingley Valley
Hope and Harrow brut reserve NV
This multiple award-winning signature blend from one of Buckinghamshire’s only wineries instantly won us over with its aromas of peach and pineapple and soft, rounded, complex flavours and fresh, fruity finish. This fourth vintage uses 30 per cent of 2014 reserves, aged in old oak barrels, with the remaining 70 per cent from 2015 – a particularly good year for pinot noir (the wine also uses pinot meunier and chardonnay grapes). The vineyard is located on sunny, south-facing chalk and flint slopes near Marlow in the Chilterns and is run by a small family team.
Buy now £28.00, Laithwaite's
Oxney Organic Estate classic
Another gold winner at this year’s International Wine Challenge, this rich and complex wine has ripe orchard fruits on the nose followed by biscuity notes and a long, creamy finish. It’s perfect as an aperitif but also pairs well with seafood and other light dishes. It comes from an organic East Sussex vineyard, six miles from Rye, which the winemaker describes as “a warm bowl between giant oak trees – a wonderful microclimate which leads to amazingly ripe fruit”. They also happen to have two gorgeous shepherd’s huts available for holiday makers.
Buy now £37.00, Oxney Organic Estate
Black Chalk classic 2016
A cracking second vintage from this Hampshire winery, which uses oak barrels during fermentation. It’s exceptionally fresh and beautifully balanced with hints of delicate peachy fruits and floral, slightly spicy aromas and a long, lingering finish – a perfect match for fish and chips. A relatively new kid on the block, the brand is now expanding, having acquired four of Hampshire’s chalkland vineyards just this year. Its name isn’t a reference to the terroir, though – it’s a nod to the chalk which the old masters used to sketch out their ideas for their artwork.
Buy now £40.50, The Good Wine Shop
Lyme Bay Winery classic cuvée
This corker of a wine has lots of citrus and stone fruit flavours going on, complemented by aromas of red fruits, honey and almond. It comes from a winery based in the rolling hills of Devon close to the Jurassic coastline, which also makes cider, mead, spirits and fruit liqueurs. It has won no shortage of awards – gold at last year’s Independent English Wine Awards and silver at the Sommelier Wine Awards and Decanter World Wine Awards in the same year, among others. It goes especially well with seafood, game, mushrooms and savoury cheese dishes.
Buy now £28.99, Lyme Bay Winery
Davenport Vineyards Limney estate 2014
Will Davenport started growing vines in Kent in 1991 and his vineyard now produces more bottles of organic wine than any other UK wine producer. “Wines are allowed to follow their own path in the winery with intervention from me only when needed” he says. It’s big on sustainability too, with the winery running on solar electricity, using only lightweight bottles and natural corks, recycled boxes and no plastic in the packaging. There’s a lovely softness to this wine, which has citrussy aromas with hints of buttery yeast and notes of baked apples and lemon peel. Goes a treat with shellfish.
Buy now £27.00, Davenport Vineyards
Louis Pommery England brut
Vranken-Pommery was the first of the big champagne houses to release an English sparkling wine and is a result of a collaboration with Hattingley Valley – it uses the facilities to make the wine from grapes hailing from Hampshire, Essex and Sussex. Having first put down roots in England in 2014, it’s pale-yellow wine with ever rising bubbles has since gone from strength to strength, winning a gold at the Global Sparkling Masters last year. There are hints of green apple, citrus fruits and honeyed stone fruits, with a fresh, mineral finish.
Buy now £39.99, Majestic
Ridgeview Fitzrovia rosé
Perfect for summer drinking, this chardonnay heavy blend of delicate salmon coloured fizz is both vibrant and creamy. With plenty of raspberry, citrus and honey, it is versatile wine that goes as well with summer pudding as it does with seafood. The vineyard – which is located on the South Downs and uses the traditional champagne methods – produces wines that are regularly served at Buckingham Palace, with this one having been served to Obama during his state visit. We think it is elegance itself.
Buy now £35.00, Waitrose & Partners Cellar
Gusbourne blanc de blancs
Every Gusbourne wine comes exclusively from its own vineyards, a south-facing ancient escarpment in Appledore, Kent, where the microclimate is high sunshine, low rainfall and where soil is similar to those of champagne. This gold coloured, award-winning blanc de blancs is its most serious and famous offering and is in a league all of its own. Kicking off with firm acidity, it moves into a rich, creamy, yeasty wine that can be consumed now or laid down. It goes especially well with seafood, thanks to the aromas of citrus and green apple and notes of toast and tarte tatin.
Buy now £59.00, Gusbourne
Roebuck Estates classic cuvée 2014
This multiple award-winning pale straw-coloured wine is only the second release from this west Sussex producer and it’s both rich and sophisticated, with delicate bubbles and great balance. You get sumptuous citrus fruit on the nose – think bitter orange and fresh lemons, along with cooked apples that lead to a toasty taste with hints of truffle. Located near the historic market town of Petworth, the wine producers set out to create something complex, refined and with real depth, and we think it’s got it spot on. Goes very well with mussels or scallops.
Buy now £35.00, Roebuck Estates
Chapel Down sparkling bacchus 2018
From the UK’s biggest winemaker, based in Kent, this affordable fizz will suit those who like their wines more intense, tropical and zesty. Made with bacchus, which is fast becoming known as England’s version of sauvignon blanc, it has been made using the traditional Prosecco method. You get aromas of pineapple, grapefruit and elderflower, while the texture is crisp and refreshing. Not a complex or sophisticated wine, by Chapel Down’s own admission, but it is easy drinking, fresh and vibrant. And it’s new too – launched just last year. Summer in a glass.
Buy now £17.99, Waitrose & Partners Cellar
Tesco finest English sparkling wine
It’s unusual to find a decent English sparkling wine for under £20, making this exceptional value. Pale gold in colouring, with a fresh bouquet of baked apples, stone fruits, citrus and hazelnut, the taste gives way to apples, citrus and nuts. It’s crisp, but with a long, refined finish and pairs well with white fish, poultry or fruit-based puddings, especially strawberries. It comes from the Hush Heath estate in Kent, one of the most premium wine producers in England, which uses only estate grown grapes. Although the estate dates back to 1503, the first vines were planted in 2002.
Buy now £19.00, Tesco
Camel Valley pinor noir rosé brut 2017
Cornwall’s Camel Valley – where the Lindo family produces a wide range of highly celebrated sparkling and still wines – was the first English wine producer to be granted a royal warrant. It’s been making this fresh, fruity combo with salmon pink hue for well over a decade and it never disappoints – and that goes for top judges in global wine competitions too. Floral and strawberry aromas give way to delicate, rich red berry flavours and a refreshing finish, making for one of the most stylish and crisp sparkling rosés we’ve had the pleasure to drink.
Buy now £33.50, The Campagne Company
Nyetimber classic cuvée
You know you’re drinking something special the moment you take the first sip of this West Sussex produced beauty. An outstanding aperitif from the first English house to produce sparkling wine over 30 years ago, this is its first non-vintage fizz. The usual blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, it is pale gold in colouring, with a rounded, creamy style and gentle, persistent bubbles. You get rich, complex aromas of honey, almond, pastry and baked apple, moving on to flavours of almond, honey, lemon and apple peel.
Buy now £27.49, Waitrose & Partners
Ambriel classic English sparkling
There’s great complexity on the nose with this lively fizz, with baked apple and brioche dominating and leading seamlessly through to more apple on the palate, along with dashes of summer fruits including strawberry and rhubarb. A great all-rounder, there are few canapés and fish dishes (including sushi) it wouldn’t complement, and it’s very easy to drink on its own too. Both refreshing and graceful, it hails from an award-winning family-owned vineyard overlooking the South Downs in West Sussex.
Buy now £29.75, Wanderlust Wine
Verdict: English sparkling wine
These 15 wines all stand out and are the results of a huge amount of hard work from extremely skilled winemakers. But forced to pick our favourites, we’re going with Hattingley valley rosé 2015, a hugely refreshing, wonderfully balanced summer wine, and Harrow and Hope brut reserve NV, a rounded complex wine that tastes a lot more expensive than it is.