Hambleton Hall wine cellar
English wine has never been so popular. The grapes growing on our chalky soil in vineyards across Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Devon and Cornwall are flourishing.
Here are some top English wine recommendations from some of the UK’s leading sommeliers:
Dominique Baduel, Sommelier, Hambleton Hall, Rutland:
English Sparkling Wines are now recognised around the world and the UK is a leading producer of high-quality fizz. The recommendations below include two varieties from the Gusbourne Estate in Kent which was taken over in 2004 by Andrew Weeber. His vision was to create English sparkling wines that would stand up alongside the very finest offerings from around the globe. The first vines were planted that year. All of the grapes used in the winemaking are sourced solely from Gusbourne’s own vineyards – 60 hectares at Gusbourne Estate in Kent and 30 hectares in West Sussex – that are planted with three classic varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
2016 Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs English sparkling wine (100% Chardonnay)
A bright golden colour with a delicate mousse, this Blanc De Blancs has classic Chardonnay aromas of green apple, citrus and mineral notes combined with buttered toast and Tarte Tatin richness from extended lees ageing. This wine is a great accompaniment to seafood.
2016 Gusbourne Rosé English Sparkling wine (54% Pinot noir 32% Pinot Meunier 14% Chardonnay)
Delicate pink in appearance with soft summer berries and floral notes on the nose. The palate shows bright red fruits, driven by ripe strawberries, fresh cherries and redcurrants, with a crisp freshness and creamy rounded texture on the finish.
The family-owned Rathfinny Estate in West Sussex was established in 2010 by Mark and Sarah Driver, with the first vineyards being planted in April 2012. The vineyard now extends to over 93 hectares in the South Downs, just three miles from the English Channel. Lying on a south-facing slope, the site is predominantly planted with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier and benefits from a semi-continental maritime climate and free-draining chalk soils, providing the ideal conditions to ripen grapes for sparkling wine. Rathfinny uses only estate-grown fruit for its four traditional-method sparkling wines: Classic Cuvée, Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs and Rosé.
2015 Rathfinny Blanc de Noirs 100% Pinot Noir
Rathfinny’s signature cuvée has a delicate, rose gold hue and an expressive nose with lifted aromas of morello cherry, toasted hazelnut and baked apple. The palate expertly combines delicacy and weight, with rich texture and autolytic complexity complemented by a fine vein of acidity which lifts the finish.
Maria Cintoli, Assistant Head Sommelier, Gravetye Manor, West Sussex:
Maria recommends two of her favourite English wines; both are sourced locally from thriving Sussex vineyards.
Nyetimber Rosé multi-vintage
This is an incredibly elegant wine. Perfect for a sunset aperitif and great with food and light desserts, too. Full of red berries and toasty/briochy notes combined with fine bubbles and creaminess, Nyetimber is the best example of the finesse that English sparkling wines can achieve.
2019 Kingscote Estate & Vineyard Bacchus
Produced at Kingscote Estate & Vineyard in East Sussex, this is a wonderful summertime dry white wine to enjoy with light meals or seafood. There are intense notes of elderflower, and a clean and refreshing palate. Bacchus has never been so delicious as it is here in Sussex.
Romain Bourger, Head Sommelier, The Vineyard, Berkshire:
The Vineyard is one of the UK’s finest wine hotels. On arrival, guests are greeted by a floor-to-ceiling glass wine vault with 5,000 bottles of wine underfoot. With 3,000 bins and 100 wines offered by the glass, here is the Head Sommelier’s pick of the best English wines:
2019 Camel Valley Bacchus, Cornwall
A deliciously fragrant wine, dry, crisp with notes of elderflower, lime and freshly cut grass. This is the English answer to Sauvignon Blanc – an amazing local alternative. The Camel Valley estate has been established since 1989 and has been producing fantastic wines ever since, with notable sparkling varieties.
2016 Chapel Down Chardonnay, Kit’s Coty, Kent
Perhaps England’s answer to Burgundy? This is from the winery Kit’s Koty single vineyard. The first vintage was 2012 and the wine is fermented with its indigenous yeast and undergoes a barrel ageing on its lees for nine months. The wine has a vibrant acidity and round palate with flavourful aromas of ripe apple, apricot and toast. It is good to drink now, or it can age further.
2020 Simpsons Wine Estate, Rabbit Hole Pinot Noir, Kent
Another amazing still wine. The 100% single vineyard Pinot Noir is produced at Simpsons Wine Estate between Canterbury and Dover. Its location near the sea ensures that the vineyard benefits from the coastal climatic effect, keeping the grapes away from high temperatures. Expect aromas of ripe summer fruit, velvety tannins, and rounded texture as well as slight tones of violet and hawthorn.