English Sparkling Wine has been getting a lot of attention recently. And for good reason – it’s really quite brilliant. So great, in fact, that it keeps beating the rather more famous Champagne brands in blind tasting tests. It’s not surprising really – the chalk ridge that runs across the South Downs through Sussex and parts of Kent is identical to the soil found in the Champagne region. Add to that slightly warmer temperatures due to the onset of climate change and this little corner of England now has the perfect conditions for producing world class bubbles.
Always partial to a glass or two themselves and with the grape harvest nearly upon us, Chic Retreats decided to head down to Sussex, Kent and Surrey to find out who’s producing the finest English fizz.
Situated at the foot of Sussex’s rolling South Downs, Ridgeview produces English Sparkling Wine and nothing else. No reds, no whites, no rosés just premium quality English fizz. And what a fantastic job they do of it too. Owned by the charming Roberts Family, Ridgeview’s wines have won over 200 medals in recent years. They stick to the traditional methods used by the leading Champagne producers over the channel. The vineyard is open Monday to Friday, and Saturday during the summer months. Vineyard tours are available but should be booked in advance.
Our favourite bottle: Ridgeview Blanc de Blancs – subtle, refreshing, citrusy and crisp
Set on a medieval estate in the heart of West Sussex, The Nyetimber Estate cultivates a whopping 380 acres of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier vines. These are the key ingredients that our French counterparts use for making Champagne and, like Ridgeview, the sole focus here at Nyetimber is on producing top quality English fizz. The vineyard is not open to the public, so you’ll just have to make do sampling it at one of the many local, or national retailers and restaurants that stock it – including Harvey Nichols and The Hawksmoor group of restaurants. Enjoy.
Our favourite bottle: Nyetimber Classic Cuvee – delicious pale gold, bottle fermented bubbly
Carr Taylor Vineyard is one of the old timers on the English wine scene. Established back in 1970 by David Carr Taylor and now run by his son Alex it is a real family affair. The winery produces a full range of both still and sparkling wines, including a rather good sparkling rosé. They run great tours each day and there is a lovely little shop on-site too.
Our favourite bottle: Carr Taylor Brut – a classic, fresh, crisp sparkling wine
Located in the delightful market town of Tenterden in Kent, Chapel Down Vineyard is one of the biggest producers of wine in England. There are about 22 acres of vineyards at the winery itself, with most of the grapes grown in other vineyards around the local area. Chapel Down produce a full range of sparkling and still wine and also produce beers and ciders – including the delicious Curious Brew lager. There is a fantastic restaurant and wine and fine food shop on site. You can even lease your own vine – giving you your very own personalised vintage.
Our favourite bottle: Chapel Down Brut – a zesty and refreshing finer-bubbled fizz
Denbies is the largest vineyard in England producing about ten per cent of the total crop of grapes each year. It is also conveniently located 45 minutes south of central London just outside the small Surrey town of Dorking. It’s an impressive operation with a very large winery set amongst the rolling vineyards. There is a large restaurant, shop, B&B and regular tours throughout the year. You can even get married there. Denbies produces red, white and sparkling wines from the 18 different grape varieties grown across the estate.
Our favourite bottle: Denbies Greenfields Cuvee – a rich, citrusy fizz with a fantastic after taste
Where to stay
An elegant, luxury boutique in the heart of the pretty town of Rye, this old-world coaching inn has a history stretching back centuries. The hotel bar has a wide range of local ales and wines to enjoy.
An adult-only B&B with only five rooms in stylish Kemp Town, No. 27 Brighton has a charming design that combines antique objects d’art with playful contemporary decorations. Breakfast is well worth getting out of bed for.
A characterful country inn located in prime position for walks through the South Downs. The grand National Trust property of Uppark House is just down the road, perfect for history buffs.
With the world-renowned Camber Sands just across the road, The Gallivant is perfect for those looking for a beachfront weekend escape. The acclaimed restaurant serves only locally and sustainably-sourced ingredients.