The Full English

POSTED ON 20/06/2015

It took four Nebuchadnezzars of Wiston Estate Brut NV for HM The Queen to name the new P & O Cruises vessel Britannia at Ocean Terminal in Southampton in March. One of the four giant 20-bottle bottles was smashed as profligately as a Formula One shower across the good ship’s bow to launch the vessel. At least the remaining three monster bottles were put to good use during the inaugural festivities. Just as well because whereas Formula One’s Mumm Cordon Rouge disposes itself wastefully with limitless supplies, Wiston is a family affair making relatively tiny quantities of sparkling wine.

Sitting deep in the heart of the West Sussex countryside, Wiston was one of the stars of this summer’s English Wine Producers tasting. This is in part because the Goring family employ the talented Dermot Sugrue, who is fast gaining a reputation as one of England’s best winemakers. It’s also through choice of location planted with the champagne grapes pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay and the Gorings’ considerable investment in the technology to make great bubbles. The fact that its yields are considerably lower than champagne average speaks volumes about Wiston’s explosive flavour.

High productivity costs mean that English sparkling wine will never be cheap but the quality and intensity of flavour coming from the UK’s top vineyards makes them as good as an option as champagne at the same price, if not better. With its smidgeon of oak spice, mouthfilling mousse and tart Cox’s apple bite, the power-packed Wiston Estate Blanc de Blancs is a divine fizz, as is the 2010 Cuvée Brut, while the 2011 Wiston Rosé with its delicate toasty oak and strawberries and cream fruit, is the finest English rosé bubbly I’ve yet come across, with the cranberry-filed 2009 Jenkyn Place Sparkling Rosé, the textured, mulberry-rich 2009 Nyetimber Rosé and the tangy, berry-filled 2010 Ridgeview Rosé de Noirs, all running it close.

In the Blanc de Blancs style, the creamy, stylish 2010 Gusbourne is as impressive as ever, while the 2010 Theale Vineyard displays the brioche and biscuity characters of good champagne only with more dry, tangy crisp focus. Among classic blends, the 2010 Nyetimber Classic Cuvée is as fabulous a mouthfilling explosion of classy English bubbly as it gets, while Hambledon’s intensely flavoured Classic Cuvée is a fizz to watch along with the 2011 Hattingley Valley, the distinctively biscuity creamy 2010 Jenkyn Place Brut Cuvée , the overflowing orchard fruits richness of the 2010 Wyfold Vineyard, the refreshing and tangy 2010 Gusbourne Brut Reserve and, yes fine, 2009 Digby Fine English. With two thirds of England’s 6.3 million bottles (2014) now in the sparkling camp, the English cup of fizz is truly running over. For prices and stockists, please check out the net and

Something for the WeekendSomething for the Weekend

Night In

2014 La Garnacha Salvaje de Moncayo

A pretty label and full-bodied Spanish tinto whose primary, spicy aromas lead into a glassful of peppery, raspberry and cherry fruitiness with the perfect glug and heft for washing down all things barbecued. £10.49, buy 2 = @7.87, Majestic.

Dinner Party

2013 Masson Blondelet Pouilly Fumé

This pure sauvignon blanc not only expresses the grape variety with the scent of nettle, smoke and herb and gooseberry ripeness but reflects its Pouilly Fumé origins with a mouthwatering, mineral aftertaste. £11.99, down from £15.99, until 30 June, Waitrose.

Splash Out

2013 Malagousia, Domaine Klima Gerovassiliou, Epanomi, Greece.

A Grecian beauty that gobsmacks literally with a seductive richness and opulent concentration of tropical citrus fruit rounded by subtle oak, and whose zesty fresh grapefruity acidity etches the wine with refreshing balance and zing. £16.99, Wine Rack.

Our sponsor