English fizz beats Champagne in blind tasting
Published by Roberson Wine on 17/12/2015
You've probably read a lot about English sparkling wine and the challenge it poses to Champagne, but if you are still in any doubt - here's the proof. In September our friends at wine magazine Noble Rot organised one of the most rigorous contests between these wines to date. A panel of genuine experts including sommeliers, wine writers like Jancis Robinson and Neal Martin, and chefs like Stephen Harris (The Sportsman) and Mikael Jonsson (Hedone) tasted ten wines blind. Six were famous Champagnes (a mix of growers and grandes marques), four were their English challengers. When the scores were tallied up, the panel's top two wines were both English. And the clear winner was Hambledon.
Hambledon's classic cuvée is made from the traditional Champagne grape varieties by head winemaker Hervé Jestin (formerly of Champagne house Duval-Leroy). The grapes are grown on Windmill Down in Hampshire, part of the same chalk ridge that runs through the Champagne region. So grapes, winemaker and soil are as close as you can get to Champagne without actually being there. And yes, the wine does taste like a very good Champagne, but it also has something a bit different about it - a really tart, fresh and racy acidity, balanced by lots of fruit.
English sparkling wine is already a serious alternative to Champagne, and it's only getting better. As that continues, it will be fascinating to see not just how good these wines can get at imitating Champagne, but what they can do to set themselves apart.
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