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11 East Anglian alternatives to Champagne and prosecco

PUBLISHED: 15:00 26 September 2019

Norfolk winemaker John Hemmant among the vines at the Chet and Waveney Valley Vineyard in Bergh Apton. Picture: Chris Hill

Norfolk winemaker John Hemmant among the vines at the Chet and Waveney Valley Vineyard in Bergh Apton. Picture: Chris Hill

Chris Hill

For special occasion bubbles you don't really need to look further than where you live, with some superb award-winning wines made right here in the East of England.

Some of France's finest Champagne producers are to descend on the UK next week in celebration of National Champagne Week, taking up residence in London and Bath.

But, those in the know will appreciate we really don't have to rely on our continental neighbours for our fizzy kicks anymore. There are some stonkingly good sparkling wines being crafted right here on our own fair isle - and they shouldn't be discounted for those special celebrations. Forget what you think you know about bottles of British bubbly. Cast memories of Babycham-fuelled parties aside, and take the time to learn about and appreciate what's right here on the doorstep. After all, some brands (such as Nyetimber) are performing as well as, or better, than French Champagne in blind taste tests.

East Anglia, along with the south east coast, is leading the way in the English wine industry. Here are just a few varieties close to home you can buy now. Many of the vineyards offer tours and tastings.

Dedham Vale Wines - Brut Sparkling

This wine is made using the method champenoise. It has spent time on its lees in the cellar and has a refreshing lively mousse (the French term for the head of bubbles that rise to the top of a sparkling wine), good depth on the palate with attractive fresh fruit flavours and yeasty overtones. The grapes used are Orion and Chardonnay. It is always delightful, the perfect celebratory drink and a lovely accompaniment to fish, shellfish or canapés.

Shawsgate Vineyard - Frampaign and Brabling Green 2014 Sparkling Rose

Surely singer Ed Sheeran will be stocking up on bottles of Frampaign NV? Only sold at the vineyard and in the Framlingham East of England Co-op store, vineyard owner Les named the award-winning white wine after the town. He says the sparkler has a fine bouquet of citrus, giving way to a fresh smooth palate with hints of malt biscuit and ripe green apples. Brabling Green is the vineyard's rose, with a berry-rich bouquet unfolding into a summer fruit palate.

Flint Vineyard - Charmat Rose 2018

Award-winning Flint's star just keeps rising and the vineyard's Charmat is not to be missed. The charmat method involves a secondary fermentation in the tank, rather than the bottle, resulting in a more fruit-driven, approachable fizz. The 2017 release was a huge success and the first of its kind in England, blending Solaris, Reichensteiner, Cabernet Cortis and Rondo grapes. A small portion of the wine is aged in oak barrels with Ben stirring the lees every week to encourage a texture and complexity not normally found in a prosecco-style wine. The Charmat is fruit forward, rich in cherries and fruits of the forest, aging to reveal hints of praline and sweet herbs.

Giffords Hall - Brut Reserve NV

A bestseller for the vineyard, combining Pinot Noir and Reichensteiner grapes. The vineyard says from year to year the sparkling wine is their 'house special' seeing extended time on yeast lees, and is blended from barrel fermented vintages depending on fruit and acidity to make a balanced and full-flavoured bottle. It has a soft mousse and rich taste with a biscuit dry finish.

Winbirri Vineyard - 2014 Vintage Reserve

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Much noise has been made about Winbirri in wine circles…and rightly so. Now, the vineyard is set to release this very special sparkling variety which they say is a 'stunner'. The 2014 Vintage Reserve blends traditional Champagne grapes (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay) with a great deal of time invested in it- five years of production. A second fermentation takes place in the bottle with three more years of lees aging, allowing the wine to achieve maturity, depth and balance.

Valley Farm Vineyards - Sundancer Brut

It has taken three and a half years, using the same method as crafting fine Champagne, for this vineyard to create 2015 Sundancer - available to try at Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival at the weekend. Crafted in partnership with Knightor Winery, Sundancer uses Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes, all from mature vines at Wissett near Halesworth. The grapes were harvested by hand in October 2015 and whole bunch pressed and fermented in-tank with a second fermentation in the bottle. The wine is golden, with a stream of fine bubbles, giving over delicate aromas of baked apple, almonds and honey, with lemon and shortbread on the palate. Sundancer is vegan-friendly.

Chet Valley Vineyard - Horatio

Biscuity, bubbly and buttery, award-winning Horatio is produced using the Champagne method, with a second ferment in the bottle, but blends varietals of grapes more suited to the English climate - Pheonix and Seyval Blanc. It is a wonderful example of how British growers can adapt, combining traditional methods with homegrown grapes, resulting in a truly exciting end product.

Crouch Ridge Vineyard, Classic Cuvee, Blanc De Blancs and Pinot Rose Sparkling Wine Reserve

Crouch Ridge is gaining traction in Essex for its wonderful sparkling wines. The Classic Cuvee 2015, first released in 2017, is an elegant bottle combining Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes grown on site. Clean and floral, the wine gives bites of fresh green apples and citrus, with a hint of freshly baked brioche. The Blanc De Blancs 2016 bursts with lemon sherbet and elderflower, opening out to reveal bright peach flavours. And the Pinot Rose, made from 100% hand-picked Pinot Noir grapes, is off-dry and rose gold in colour, with aromas of strawberry, raspberry and floral elements.



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