The best English sparkling wine

This time last year, English wine producers were in a less than celebratory mood. The most dismal summer in living memory threatened to derail the harvest, and some onlookers wondered whether the industry had lost its fizz for good.

Fortunately, the embattled winemakers kept calm and carried on, and they discovered that, although 2012’s yield was lower than usual, the grapes that had survived the cold and damp were wonderfully juicy. Consumer confidence was restored, and sales continued on their upward trajectory. From the moment the sun first came out this summer, our gardens, parks and riverbanks have been echoing to the sound of corks popping on English-grown wines.

Weather aside, it’s been a vintage couple of years for English sparkling wine. When Sussex estate Ridgeview gave the Continental Goliaths a pasting at the Decanter World Wine Awards in 2010, producers all over the country toasted their success. And, earlier this year, a team from the professional body English Wine Producers made a triumphant appearance at Düsseldorf’s international ProWein fair, grouped under a banner reading ‘This is England’. Even the French aren’t immune to the charms of British bubbly- shoppers across the Channel are reportedly going wild for Hampshire-based Coates & Seely’s offerings.

There have never been more English sparkling wines on our shelves. In fact, there’s been such an explosion of them recently that the choice can be baffling for the uninitiated. To aid Country Life readers, wine writer Adam Lechmere put 17 of the best through their paces.

Camel Valley Cornwall Brut 2011, Cornwall £24.95
Sweet apple and pear nose leading to restrained fruit on the palate-crab-apple and green plum. Slightly sour acidity, with the length falling a bit short

Herbert Hall Brut 2011, Kent £28

Bone dry with flavours of apple, exotic peach and apricot, white flowers, leading into sweet pear drops. Mouth-filling acidity and mousse, with a bright, sweet length

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Ambriel Classic Cuvée NV, West Sussex £27.50
The nose is closed at first, with hints of nettle and dock-leaf, and a suggestion of rainwater. Hints of brioche on the palate with sweet and ripe acidity. Sour, acidic length

Ridgeview Cavendish Traditional Blend 2010, East Sussex £24.95

Sweet white-flower nose, followed by gentle, ripe acidity on the palate, with orchard fruits, peach and apricot, and yeasty bakery notes with hints of hazelnut

Jenkyn Place Brut 2009, Hampshire from £25

Spice and leather on the nose, with hedgerow leaves, dock-leaf and savouriness. Beguiling under-ripe melon and citrus on the palate, with dense acidity plus it has good, food-friendly length

Coates & Seely Brut Reserve NV, Hampshire, £27.95
Honey and white flowers on the nose, then citrus, kiwi and lime flavours on the palate. Exotic, but with drying acidity tempered by bready, toasted notes

Henners Brut 2009, East Sussex £27

Cooked pear with plum-jelly aromas; on the palate, sherbet lemons and an open, mouth-filling mousse. Dense acidity detonating on the tongue with gouts of juiciness

Chapel Down Three Graces 2008, Kent £26.99
Toasty nose, with yeasty, pâtisserie notes. Sweet, sharp, spicy acidity with bright-red fruit and sweet cherry, alongside pear and cut Granny Smith apples. Good length

Gusbourne Estate Brut Reserve 2008, Kent £24.99
Toast, nutty brioche, walnut on the nose. Peach and lime flavours with notes of caramel, molasses or muscovado sugar. Complex and interesting, with very good length

Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs 2007, West Sussex £35
Hint of cream and custardy brioche on a very restrained nose for a 2007. Citrus fruits and saltiness and a hint of lobster Thermidor on the palate. Low-key. Very good length

Ridgeview Fitzrovia Rosé 2010, East Sussex £26.95

Very good earthy nose with aromas of bursting, over-ripe cherries. The palate is disappointing, with a slightly metallic edge, and acidity that overwhelms the fruit

13. Chapel Down Sparkling English Rosé NV, Kent £19.99
Lovely sweet strawberry aromas, and a palate loaded with fresh summer fruit-redcurrants, raspberries-and good dense acidity. Lovely wine, but it slightly falls off at the finish

Camel Valley Cornwall Pinot Noir Rosé Brut 2011, Cornwall £26.95

Iodine and liquorice on a very bright nose. Attractive, sharp, sour acidity bolsters cooked raspberry and cherryade on the palate. Very good length

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Coates & Seely Rosé NV, Hampshire £31.99

Intense over-ripe summer berries, then savoury hints on the nose, with some burnt match aromas. Rather commercial palate of roses, pear drops and cherryade

Hush Heath Balfour Brut Rosé 2009, Kent £35

There’s some good fruit here, but it’s dominated by drying acidity. Overall, workmanlike and fairly commonplace, rather boxy and four-square. I’d want something more unusual for the price

Gusbourne Estate Sparkling Rosé 2009, Kent £29.99
Sweet cherries and ripe pear on the nose, with toasty notes. The acidity is quite dry at the moment, but there’s a healthy back-up of pear, apple, nettle and sour cherry. I’d like to see this in three years’ time

Nyetimber Rosé 2009, West Sussex £45

Powerful, savoury nose with burnt match and raspberry coulis. Toasty brioche and raspberry leaf palate. Really very complex, with mouth-filling mousse and good juicy acidity

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