British wines for summer drinking
English wines really started coming to the fore when in 1998 Nyetimber Sparkling Wine beat the wines of Champagne to become “the best sparkling wine in the world”.
Many soils in southern England are similar to the Champagne region, with good drainage and ample nutrition for vines. Now English vineyards grow many grape varieties — Pinot Noir and Chardonnay mostly for sparkling wine, Bacchus which is thought of as England’s answer to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Seyval Blanc, Ortega, Reichensteiner, Madeleine Angevine — one I enjoy — and several others.
Here are a few sparklers, readily available locally, to toast Her Majesty:
Bowler and Bradley English Sparkling Wine Classic Cuvée 12pc (Aldi £19.99) Made in Hampshire from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this is citrussy with light toasty notes. Rich and soft.
Tesco Finest English Sparkling Wine 12pc (£21) Made by Hush Heath vineyards in Kent by Richard Balfour-Lynn, this is crisp, fresh apple and citrus, a touch of brioche and delicate mousse.
Chapel Down Brut NV (Sainsbury £25, Waitrose £22 offer, Tesco, M&S £27) From Tenterden in Kent, this is a classic example of quality English sparkling wine with aromas of red apple, citrus fruits and freshly baked bread together with hints of strawberry and quince on the palate and fine persistent bubbles.
Lyme Bay Brut Reserve Sparkling Wine 11pc (Mitchells £19.99) From Axminster in Devon, this has lemon and green apple notes with a creamy mousse.
The Society’s Exhibition English sparkling wine NV Ridgeview, Sussex 12pc (£24) Made from classic Champagne varieties, this is crisp with hints of apple and lemon.
Renishaw Hall Vintage Cuvée Sparkling Wine 2017 11.5pc (StarmoreBoss £27.95) The vines for this Derbyshire vineyard were planted by Sir Reresby Sitwell in 1972. Made in the traditional Champagne method and rested for 18 months on its lees, this has toasty freshness, lemon zest, apple, elderflower and a touch of creaminess.
Balfour Cuvée Rosé (M&S £22) From Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, this Hush Heath Kent fizz is a youthful rosé-pink colour and rich aromas of strawberry, rhubarb and pink grapefruit with a creamy mousse balanced by fine acidity and a touch of sweetness on the finish.
Denbies Chalk Valley Sparkling Wine, Surrey (Morrisons £16) Ripe lemon fruit and creamy texture.
And if you want the best:
Nyetimber Classic Cuvée 12pc (The Wine Society £31, Waitrose, Sainsbury £37, Majestic £36.99 mixed 6) Owned by Eric Hereema, this has all the delicious bakery and fresh apple aromas of traditional-method sparkling wines, plus a lovely earthy, mushroomy note, high acidity and lovely balance.
When it comes to English still whites I prefer those from Bacchus, Ortega or Madeleine Angevine grapes, increasingly well-known and popular:
Chapel Down Bacchus 2020 12.5pc (Waitrose £15.99 — offer £12.79, Majestic £14.99) Grapefruit melon and green apple.
Chapel Down Flint Dry 2020 12.5pc (Majestic £13.99 Waitrose £14.99) A blend of Chardonnay, Bacchus, Pinot Blanc and PinotNoir, this aromatic wine has aromas of green apple, melon and kiwi together with crisp acidity and long refreshing finish.
Lyme Bay Bacchus 11.5pc (Mitchells £17.99) From the small Dog-Leg plot at Great Whitman’s vineyard, this 100pc Bacchus wine has intense and powerful grapefruit freshness, broad tropical fruit notes and herbal undertones.
Bolney Bacchus 2019, West Sussex 12pc (Lightfoots £18.99) Aromatic, floral and fruity, lemon, gooseberry, grapefruit and elderflower notes.
Giffords Hall Suffolk Madeleine Angevine (Waitrose £12.99) Notes of white blossom, lime and lemon. Similar to an Alsace Pinot Blanc.
Carr Taylor Ortega 11pc (Mitchells £13.99) Ortega is an early ripening variety for the UK, which allows us to leave the grapes hanging on the vine as long as possible to achieve the optimum balance of fruit and acid. This is a dry, lightly oaked wine with subtle red apple and elderflower flavours and a hint of vanilla.
Three Choirs Stonebrook 11pc (Majestic£9.99) Soft and fruity, aromatic floral nose. Zingy grapefruit and lime with peachy notes from the Vale of Evesham in Gloucestershire.
Rosés and reds are in short supply locally but here are three:
Chapel Down English Rosé 2020, Tenterden, Winemaker Josh Donaghay-Spire 12.5pc (Sainsbury £10, Waitrose £13.99) A nose of strawberry, raspberry and crisp summer berries and citrus palate.
Botham and Balfour English Rosé, Hush Heath 11.5pc (Tesco £12) Ian Botham gets everywhere. This is citrus and flowery with subtle lime and a nice finish.
Bolney Estate Pinot Noir (Majestic £17.99) Vibrant flavours of ripe strawberry, plum and red cherry and a hint of toast.
Finally, Waitrose have a good selection of English and Welsh wines from smaller producers but only available online.
So there we are. Some lovely English sparkling wines to toast Her Majesty and still ones for lovely summertime drinking.