The first English sparkling wine made by a French champagne maker is about to go on sale in England, signaling clearly that British “fizz” is starting to come of age.
According to a report published in The Guardian newspaper, labeled as Meonhill, the British bubbles will be available early this year. It has been made from grapes grown from French rootstocks planted in Hampshire.
The planned release of the first 5,000 bottles by Didier Pierson-Whitaker, owner of a grand cru vineyard in Champagne, comes as established English vintners of champagne-style sparkling wines report a dramatic growth in sales and demand.
"Demand is outstripping production and we can’t keep up," said Mardi Roberts, sales manager at Ridgeview, in Sussex, which won best sparkling wine in the 2011 International Wine and Spirit Competition. "Exports have been a real growth area and now represent 20% of our sales to places like the US, Finland, Japan and Hong Kong," he said.
So far the three grape varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are cultivated in the UK to make traditional champagne-style sparkling wine. Demand of sparkling wine made from these varietals has more than quadrupled since 2005, according to data held by the Food Standards Agency.
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When I was in England last year, I’d really expected to see more ‘English Bubbles”; but after searching 6 different wine stores, I finally gave up my search.
I can’t say that English sparkling wines will ever rival true Champagne, either for levels of production or quality, but the first step is to at least get the English wine drinkers themselves on-board! Only time will tell, but since the climate and soil closely mimics that of Northern France, I see no reason why they aren’t in with a fighting chance!