English sparklers an emerging treat

Hush Heath Estate, which produces Balfour wine.
From The New York Times

By Eric Asimov

It was as gently gorgeous as any wine region I’ve visited, although looking around you would never know it was a wine region at all. Verdant pastures dotted with cattle and sheep, interspersed with bursting bluebells and fields of rapeseed shimmering with yellow flowers all spoke colorfully of an economy dependent for centuries on the annual rhythms of agriculture. But the landscape said little of wine.

This was southern England, which I visited last week for a piece on English sparkling wine. Very few Americans are aware that England makes any wine at all, much less good sparkling wine, and, looking around, they won’t see much to convince them otherwise.

Unlike more historic wine regions, you are not surrounded by a monoculture of grapes in the countryside. But here and there, in hidden valleys and secluded glens, vineyards of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier on south-facing slopes offer evidence of a new optimism that England can make world-class sparkling wine.

That optimism is not at all unfounded. English sparkling wines may not yet rival very good Champagnes, but the best versions are already surprisingly good. I was especially taken with the elegant blanc de blancs from Ridgeview Estate in East Sussex and Gusbourne Estate in Kent. Hush Heath Estate’s Balfour Brut Rosé is quite good.

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