Flying the flag

For decades, British wine has been winning against French wines in blind tastings. Notably and excitingly, news coverage has centred around how good English sparkling wines measure up and often outclass those from the Champagne region of France.

Wine grown near the Sussex Downs village of Ditchling has been voted the world’s best sparkling wine. OAK N4 stock two of – Ditchling-based – Court Garden’s wines, including the delicious blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, Court Garden Ditchling Reserve. from the wonderful 2010 vintage this is one of the Court Garden’s greatest creations and has won all the awards* going.

Demand for fizz has grown enormously and especially in the UK. At the bottom end this has been most obviously manifested by the exponential growth of Prosecco sales. But the far superior and much more expensive offerings of the champagne producers are still leading a highly buoyant market.

Now a combination of this rising demand, climate change** and the comparative values of English agricultural land has seen the major Champagne houses investigating expansion of their operations across the Channel. Louis Roederer, the makers of the super-rich’s favourite Cristal, Duval-LeRoy, and Veuve Clicquot have all made enquiries. And in 2015 the biggest endorsement came when Tattinger announced they would plant Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier under their Domaine Evremond brand name. A multi-million pound investment over 10 years and on 69 hectares of Kent farmland to produce 300,000 bottles of English sparkling wine annually.

With the two Court Garden sparkling wines, we have a total of six English offerings on our list. Bolney Brut NV is a blend of Muller Thurgau and Chardonnay from West Sussex. Simple, light and refreshing, with a charming elderflower creaminess, this is approachable and very easy to drink.

And from Kent’s Gusbourne Estate we have three lovely siblings. Their Brut Reserve is laden with citussy, candied lemons and mandarins on the nose with a hint of golden apple. This is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier. Their 100% Pinot Noir Brut Rose has ripe strawberries and apricots with a developing background of biscuit oatmeal. Perfect with your Eton mess or Cranachan at the start of the summer’s event season. And finally, Gusbourne’s Blanc de Blanc is pure elegance in the glass. Ripened green fruit flavours and toasted savoury notes define this Chardonnay, very classy indeed.

So now we’re in June. Okay, we can’t really claim it as the start of summer, can we? But perhaps consider one of the above to celebrate or drown your sorrows on June the 8th?



*To save you looking it up, awards for Court Garden Ditchling Reserve include: IWSC 2016 Gold, Decanter World Wine Awards 2016 Silver and IWC 2016 Silver.

** Climate change: some pundits are saying that southern England now has a climate similar to that of the Bordeaux region 20 years ago.

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