With English wines continuing to shine after a stellar 2020 vintage, Helena Nicklin picks six of the best still and sparkling wines for you to seek out this festive season.
By now, everyone should have got the memo: England can make world-class wines. We’re particularly excellent at sparkling wines, but with the climbing temperatures, there are some still wines knocking it out of the park too. Here are some of the best English wines that I have tried this year and that I think deserve a place at your table as we all raise a glass to the end of another tricky year.
English Sparkling Wine
Busi Jacobsohn Cuvée Brut 2018 (East Sussex)
Despite the quirky name, which stems from its Italian /Swedish owners and producers Susanna Busi and Douglas Jacobsohn, this gorgeously decadent and creamy fizz is made with 60% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Meunier and 20% Pinot Noir and hails from their Eridge vineyard near Tunbridge Wells. Think toasted brioche and almond cream pastries with scoops of apricot preserve and poached pear to boot. It is an excellent foodie fizz and will shine with lighter patés, blinis and pastry-based canapés. It also has huge label appeal!
£38 from Harvey Nichols
Exton Park RB|28 Blanc de Noirs (Hampshire)
Exton Park is the first UK producer to start using reserve wines in their blends like Champagne producers such as Bollinger do. RB stands for ‘reserve blend’, and here, 28 refers to the number of different reserve wines used. With three years ageing on lees and all these reserve wines, the result is a rich, creamy and complex sparkling wine packed with notes of baked red apple, hazelnuts and pan d’épice, all with a saline tang and a touch of lime citrus on the finish. A great match for nuts, raw fish or just enjoyed alone.
£41.99 from Selfridges
Harrow & Hope Brut Rosé 2018 (Buckinghamshire)
This exceptionally elegant rosé bubbly hails from Marlow in Bucks, where it won the accolade of Best English Sparkling Rosé in 2020. It uses a traditional method like the others above and is made largely Pinot Noir and presents us with a pale, rose petal pink hue, a delicately creamy mousse, light, red berry notes and a refreshing, citrussy finish. It is a very pretty wine in all the senses and perfect for gifting!
£32 from Laithwaites (in gift box)
Rathfinny Blanc de Noirs Brut 2016
Now, here’s a glorious English wine that sounds like it should be a Scotch whisky. This limited edition blanc de noirs is made solely with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes, with three years of bottle ageing before release. This white wine with a pretty, pink tinge and a tantalizingly textured and aromatic fizz evoke red apple skin, summer berry pudding, and wild strawberry shortbread. If this were called Champagne, it would easily be twice the price.
£36.50 From Lea and Sandeman
Still English Red
Hattingley Valley Pinot Noir 2020
This is the first-ever still red from this award-winning winery, made possible thanks to the lockdown sunshine of 2020. It just goes to show where we can go as a wine-producing country in the future! A limited edition of just 2000 bottles, this wine was aged in ex-Burgundy casks, and the result is divine: bright cherry and plum notes with earthy lavender and a touch of baking spice. All while being lithe and elegant. Simply stunning. This is a perfect turkey-with-all-the-trimmings wine.
£25 from HattingleyValley.com
Still English White
Gusbourne ‘Guinevere’ Chardonnay 2019
It’s impossible for me to taste Guinevere without the haunting melody of the Crosby Still and Nash song of the same name filling my head. The wine lives up to it too; pure and crisp, this is Chardonnay at its most elegant, complex and saline. It doesn’t shout loudly, so pour it and savour it slowly, coaxing out the subtle flavours of macadamia nut and lemon cream. Stunning.
£29 from Gusbourne.com
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