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What are the differences between English and French sparkling wines?

Nyetimber 1086 English Sparkling Wine

English Sparkling Wines are made by the same method as Champagne, and often uses the same grape varieties, but there are some differences.

The key one is the greater freshness and energy that English Sparkling Wines manage to deliver. This is because of the higher acidity levels of English Sparkling Wines. Good acidity perks up the palate and gives a sense of zip and zing to a wine. Obviously, you don’t want acidity levels too high, or the wine will taste too astringent. But the warmer climate of France means that grapes get riper, and one feature of grapes ripening is that the acidity levels drop.

Another difference is that you are not paying for the brand name of Champagne when you purchase a bottle of English Sparkling Wine! That saves a few pounds per bottle…! For the sake of fairness, you can achieve the same saving by buying sparkling wines from other parts of France. These are called “Cremants” – which don’t have the same cachet.

Grower producers in the world of sparkling wines

Cherie Spriggs Nyetimber winemaker English Sparkling Wine

English Sparkling Wines are mainly made by the people who grow the grapes that go into it. It’s different in Champagne, where there is a big division between “growers” and “houses”. The former grow the grapes, then sell them to the latter, who turn them into wine. The majority of the Champagne industry works in this way. Growers are paid by the tonne, and once they reach a minimum quality threshold, their incentive is produce maximum quantity of grapes, not quality. In England, with the grower-producers, quality of the raw materials, the grapes, is of paramount importance.

It’s also the case that there are some English Sparkling Wines that are made by the Prosecco method. They taste like the best examples of this style, but they are few and far between. We stock the Shotley Vineyard Sparkling Wine and Flint Vineyard Charmat Rosé, which are exceptional examples.