Archive for the ‘English champagne’ Category
“My husband retired from his City job when he was 45,” says Sarah Driver as she noses her car up a steep country lane near the village of Alfriston, East Sussex. “I was terrified that he’d just be sneaking around the house with nothing to do, making a nuisance of himself for 40 years. So when he said he had signed up for a full-time course in viniculture, I was delighted. Little did I know the scale of his ambition.”
As we reach the crown of the hill, a green and pleasant Sussex landscape is revealed: a sun-soaked, slanting bowl of 600 acres, protected from the prevailing winds by an escarpment of National Trust land. In the distance, blue and magnificent, is the English Channel. This is the Rathfinny Estate, which the Drivers bought in October 2010 for around £4 million. Under Mark Driver’s stewardship, it will soon be England’s largest vineyard.
To most people, the words “English” and “wine” (like “French” and “Pimm’s”) should never be used in the same sentence. The idea conjures up images of Sixties Babycham, or of dodgy elderflower plonk brewed in bathrooms by dandruffy men with flowery shirts and unkempt beards. Not exactly the epitome of sophistication.
“Disgusting!” says Driver when we meet. “That’s what English wine was like 20 years ago. But these days it’s a different story. Our sparkling wine has now officially been recognised as world class.”
Over the past eight years, English sparkling wine producers have won more international awards than any other country. In 2010, Sussex-based Ridgeview won the esteemed Decanter award, the first time it had ever been awarded to a non-French producer. In the same year, Nyetimber’s Classic Cuvée, a sparkling wine also made in Sussex, beat the likes of Bollinger and Pommery to win the award for best in the world. A similar accolade was given to Cornwall-based Camel Valley in 2009, and to Ridgeview in 2005.
“Climate change has meant that over the last 20 years, southern England has come to share the same climate as the Champagne area,” Driver explains. “We already have almost identical chalky soil, as Rathfinny lies on the same band of chalk that forms the Paris Basin. Now this is reflected in our wines. This is the time for English fizz.” Continue reading on the Telegraph website