Grape expectation: Raise a toast to English sparkling wine this Christmas
We need no excuse to enjoy a glass of fizz and with the festive season upon us, choosing the right sparkling wine to celebrate with is no doubt a keen talking point for many.
There is no denying however, that sparkling wine is no longer confined to special occasions and we now choose a glass of fizz as readily as we would a glass of wine. Our new favourite hobby is finding the perfect fizz and wowing our friends when we find the perfect one.
However, whilst in the past we would have chosen between Champagnes, and more recently Proseccos, at this time of year, there are a growing number of homegrown English wine brands that are now catching our attention too. For years, English fizz was hard to find, but now there are a number of vineyards that are standing toe to toe with their European cousins.
A good example is the Chinn family’s vineyard, Castle Brook, in Herefordshire. Fourth generation farmers, the family are one of the largest asparagus growers in the UK and have become well-known for their reverse season growing and Wye Valley brand.
Planting a vineyard started out as the dream of father, John Chinn, and when he discovered the site of an ancient Roman vineyard on his land, his dream became a fast-moving reality. The family planted their vineyard on the sunny slopes of their Wye Valley farm in 2004, producing their first harvest in 2006 for the first release of their sparkling wine in 2009. Initially they produced the wine for their own use. Who wouldn’t want their own home grown fizz? But like everything on the Chinn estate, the wine has become too good to be kept a family secret! The estate now produces around 5,000 bottles each year, which until recently have been quietly sold to a small network of contacts. However during 2014, the family re-branded their Classic Cuvée and was awarded the Montagu Trophy for Best Presented Wine in the English & Welsh Wine of the Year Competition 2015. The family also struck gold at the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships 2015, winning a Gold Medal, and picked up a second Silver Medal at the Decanter World Wine Awards.
The newly labelled Classic Cuvée is a traditionally styled Brut, which has been made using traditional Champagne grapes to create the finest English sparkling wine. The 2009 vintage has had a generous 4 ½ years of resting on its lees in secondary fermentation before disgorging in autumn 2014, and its release in early 2015. It is a perfect choice for the Christmas table, with brioche and toasty yeast notes that add complexity to the crisp and elegant finish.
The family are not letting the success go to their heads and will continue to produce a limited number of bottles each year and plans to introduce a Rosé and Blanc de Blancs over the next few years. With such rarity, it is a bottle to covet, maybe not one for the fridge door, but the perfect toast for a truly British Christmas!