Attention Croydonians – there’s champagne on our doorstep

By - Monday 21st July, 2014

Wine presenter and educator Faye Edwardes toasts the sparkling vintages produced just down the road from Croydon, and the coming of age of English sparkling wine

Vines at Ridgeview Winery.
Photo author’s own.

Nestling not far from our hometown are some fantastic vines bearing wonderful fruit. English sparkling wine is finally coming of age.

There is a growing number of sparkling wine producers in Kent, Surrey and Sussex making very high quality wines. Local producers such as Nyetimber, Ridgeview and Gusborne have established themselves as premium sparking winemakers and their wines are sold in many of London’s five star establishments and are exported throughout the world.

For me as a wine presenter and educator who has been teaching about its potential for some time, it’s been incredibly exciting to see our local products reaching such high quality and gaining recognition. With so many award winners in the IWC (International Wine Challenge) this year, it’s becoming much clearer to the wine drinking public just how fantastic these wines are.

The similarity of the Squerryes estate to Champagne makes it a great place to produce sparkling wine

Then in June 2014, we have seen the launch of Squerryes, an outstanding sparkling wine produced just down the road in Westerham, Kent. The Squerryes Estate covers 2,500 acres in Kent and Surrey. In 2004, the family was approached by winemakers from Champagne who had identified that the ‘terroir’ at Squerryes was incredibly similar to some areas of Champagne and, for that reason, would be a great place to produce some high quality English sparkling wine.

So the family began the long process that is producing wine. And this weekend, nearly ten years later, the British public had a chance to taste Squerryes Brut 2010 Exclusive First Vintage Reserve. The Warde family celebrated by hosting the “Squerryes Celebration“, an event open to the public which celebrated local artisan food producers and of course the wine itself. It was very much a family event with a storytelling tent for the children and an open air performance of Alice in Wonderland.

Bottles at Ridgeview Winery.
Photo author’s own.

As its title suggests, the grapes in Squerryes Brut 2010 Exclusive First Vintage Reserve were harvested in 2010. The grapes are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, which also happen to be the three permitted grape varieties in Champagne. Since 2010, the wine has been maturing and developing and undergoing a process called second fermentation which is what gives sparkling wine the bubbles and the distinctive toasty flavour.

I found the wine itself is an absolute delight, very crisp and refreshing with a lovely zinginess on the palate. There are notes of green apples and a little creaminess. It’s everything you would expect from a premium champagne, and more. There’s also something wonderfully English about the flavour which makes it very special.

We lucky South Londoners have award-winning vineyards virtually on our doorsteps

So with its growing quality and popularity (would you believe English sparkling has become the most oft-drunk fizz from the government’s cellar?) does English sparkling need a name? Right now we have champagne from France, cava from Spain, prosecco from Italy and… English sparkling from the UK. Not so catchy, is it?

The Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker Bowles, has been among a growing group calling for us to find a name for our fizz. There has been a handful of suggestions, including Bretagne and Merret, and although none have so far has quite hit the spot, suggestions are very welcome!

So, for now, we’ll have to be content with simply enjoying the fantastic sparkling wine that is being produced on our doorstep. That’s not too much of a hardship, really.

It’s amazing to see this local but not yet so well-known industry reaching its potential. And for us lucky South Londoners, many of these award winning vineyards are virtually on our doorstep – definitely worth a weekend jaunt to check some of them out. It’s wonderful to see the vines in all their glory, and to have a chance to see the ins and outs of a working winery.

If you’d like to sample some of our local wines, stockists are as follows:

Nyetimber – Majestic Sanderstead, Waitrose (nationally): Nyetimber Classic Cuvee 2009 – £35.99 (£23.98 if you purchase two bottles from Majestic)
Ridgeview – Laithwaites (Brighton Road, South Croydon), Waitrose, M&S, Virgin Wines: Ridgeview South Ridge 2010 – £26.99
Gusborne – Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason, South Downs Wine Cellar, Lindfield: Gusborne Estate Blanc de Blancs 2010 – £36.99
Squerryes – available at £28.99
Faye Edwardes

Faye Edwardes

Oenophile, grape fanatic, wine evangelist and mum of two. I run Love Wine Limited, an independent wine education company offering tastings to private, charity and corporate clients. Also found speaking about wine on the radio (and anywhere else) as often as possible..

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  • John Gass

    A new name for English sparkling wine? Brit Pop!™ Including the Whamesque exclamation mark, of course.

  • Faye at Love Wine

    John, that’s not a bad idea. I’ll see what the English wine world think! Faye