But the French pioneer from the Champagne region is no longer the only leader. The market produces many other quality sparkling wines such as Winzersekt, Cava and Franciacorta. The neighbouring British island that is attracting more and more attention in terms of wine should also not be forgotten.
You can already see them, the white chalk cliffs of Dover, when you cross the English Channel on the old-fashioned ferry. This soil structure can be found in the subsoil all over southwest England – just like in the Champagne region. It therefore goes without saying that it is going to create its own great sparkling wine and emulate the French model.
In 1966, Pilton Manor in Somerset was the first commercial producer to produce a bottle-fermented sparkling wine from the Müller-Thurgau and Seyval Blanc grape varieties commonly used at the time. The grape varieties have changed since then but not the willingness of the winegrowers to take risks to establish themselves on the market. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier were planted later and the wines were vinified traditionally according to the traditional method.
The big names here are Nyetimber (Hall 13, Stand B 48) and Ridgeview Estate (Hall 13, C 45), both located in Sussex. Smaller ones, however, are Chapel Down (Hall 13, Stand C 45) and Gusborne in Kent. As a shareholder in the wineries, you can indirectly participate in the success story of this development and promote their projects. In the meantime, a patriotic vision has turned into a quite realistic plan to produce and successfully market English sparkling wine.
Although England is not spared extreme weather events and the climate is still cool and volatile, one side effect of climate change is that it defuses the risk of the grapes not achieving full physiological ripeness. While other sparkling wine regions such as Catalonia are struggling with the heat, British winegrowers have no irrigation issues to deal with.
So our team did not want to deprive the guests in the gourmet restaurant at the Grand Hotel in Arosa of this innovation and served an English sparkling wine at the beginning of New Year's Eve instead of the classic champagne. The reaction: polarising.
Many were surprised about the high quality and enjoyed the tasting. Others were critical and also horrified to equate an English sparkling wine with a French one. At the end of the evening, what we were most pleased about was the fact that our guests were open to new things and had lively discussions about them. After all, it is diversity that fascinates us so much about wine and ultimately unites us. Nowadays, we can draw and learn beyond any national borders from almost every wine culture in the world. And it's also nice that European and British connoisseurs are still united in their enjoyment of sparkling wine after Brexit.