Published on September 6th, 20120
Raise a glass to English Fizz – there’s plenty to celebrate!
Appeared in Kent Profile, AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2012
By Rebecca Dunphy
Why is it that we always pour a glass of French Champagne, Spanish Cava or even an Aussie Fizz, when there is cause to celebrate? Can you picture the French celebrating Bastille Day with a pint of English Bitter or a Spanish Bull Fighter cleansing his palate with a glass of English lemonade?
Twenty years ago we may have had an excuse to turn our noses up, and of course there are cheaper alternatives. But why opt for foreign fizz when our home grown fizz tastes so fantastic. Today you can feel pride in knowing that our wines regularly triumph over Champagne and that contrary to popular opinion it was not the French, but the English who put bubbles into wine. As early as 1662, decades before Dom Pérignon had even thought of making Champagne, an English physician and scientist, Christopher Merret, records at the Royal Society how in London, we added sugar and molasses to ‘all sorts of wines to make them drink brisk and sparkling’.
Once the butt of jokes, our wine industry is a sparkling success. We’ve now got more than 400 commercial vineyards, double the acreage under vine since 2004 and products good enough not just for the local pub, but also our finest restaurants, the BBC’s Apprentice and of course Royal Celebrations – Kate and William’s wedding guests celebrated with a Kentish wine no less – Chapel Down Flint Dry.
The Jubilee gave a huge boost to English wine sales with Waitrose’s surging by 96% over the bank holiday weekend. The Queen too, is a huge fan of English Sparkling wine. It now often takes pride of place at Royal Banquets and she has had 16,500 of her own vines planted at Windsor for fizz production.
English wine, once a hobby for the retired now attracts serious investors who in turn have sparked off the quality revolution we are enjoying now. In Kent we have Frazer Thompson of Chapel Down, a Geordie and formerly a beer man, and Heineken’s ex Global Brand Manager. Frazer Thomson brought his business acumen and significant investment to turn a local vineyard Chapel Down, into one of our best and largest UK wine producer.
A more recent Kent wine investor is property mogul Richard Balfour-Lynn, who owns the beautiful 400 acre Hush Heath Estate. Balfour has made it his mission to take on the very best Champagne Rosé producers. No expense has been spared in his new state of the art winery and new plantings. He rejects German hybrid grapes traditionally recommended to cope with our cool, damp climate and instead only grows the Champagne trio – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
His bullish ambition is well on track with his Balfour Brut Rosé, which is currently the only English wine to be selected for the London Olympics Corporate hospitality fizz binge.
With English wines never having tasted so good, when better than now to raise a glass of English fizz or wine to our British Athletes at London Olympics 2012.
In Kent we are spoilt for choice with a wide array of patriotic fizz and wine. It makes a fun day out, sniffing and tasting, to find your favourite. Who knows, once you’ve tasted for yourself, you may find yourself turning down Champagne for a local fizz.
To design your own Kent wine trail, ‘Produced in Kent’ has a fact filled brochure.
To whet your appetite I’ve put together a few recommendations for you to try.
Chapel Down Rose Brut, Kent, £24.99
Gold medal at the 2011 International Wine Challenge.
Gusbourne Blanc de Blanc, Appledore, Kent, 2007 £28.99
A rising star on the Kentish wine scene, making top-quality wines from Champagne grapes.
Hush Heath Balfour Rosé, Kent, 2008. £35
This is the first English wine to be selected at the London Oympics.’ Corporate entertaining.
Sandhurst Vintage Brut, Kent, 2003. £15.15
Made just like Champagne, but from Seyval Blanc.
Biddenden Vineyards, Ortega , Kent, 2010. £9.84
Available direct from Kent’s oldest commercial vineyard.
Chapel Down Bacchus 2010. £10.99
Available direct from the vineyards.