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How to identify the best English sparkling wines

What is the Great British Classic Method hallmark and why has it been introduced by WineGB?

English sparkling wine consistently beats Champagne in blind tasting competitions so why then do we still question the cost of our home-grown produce?

It’s something the national association for the English and Welsh wine industry, Wines of Great Britain, is trying to address with the introduction of a new quality stamp for our sparkling wines.

The Great British Classic Method hallmark can only be used for wines produced exclusively from grapes grown in Great Britain using the Classic Method – the same way that Champagne is made, where the bubbles come from a second fermentation in the bottle, rather than the less expensive tank method used to make prosecco.

It makes sense considering it was actually in England, not France as most assume, that the traditional way of making sparkling wine originated. While Dom Perignon is thought to have invented Champagne in 1697, it was 30 years earlier that English physician Christopher Merret first documented “how to put the fizz into sparkling wine”.

In time, the aim is to bring in regulation whereby any English sparkling wine must include reference to its method of production.

“We have long recognised the need to positively differentiate and protect our flagship category wines produced from the classic method. This is the hero style that has put Great Britain on the wine map and led us to more extraordinarily exciting developments in our industry,” explains WineGB’s chairman, Simon Robinson.

“We now boast a broad range of diverse and high-quality wines in all styles. Our sparkling wines however remain at the forefront of our industry and are driving sales both here and overseas. This campaign has set us on the path to ensure that our classic method wines are more positively recognized among the finest wine regions of the world.”

4 Great British Classic Method Hallmark wines to try 

Rathfinny Classic Cuvee 2016, £29.50

The first vintage of Rathfinny’s classic Sussex Sparkling has an expressive nose of fresh red orchard apples, a creamy tangerine mousse punctuated by toasty notes of almond brittle, and a honeydew melon finish.

High Clandon Estate Endymion Cuvée 2015 Prestige vintage brut, £37

Resulting from a late harvest with five years lees ageing this cuvee from Surrey is golden in colour with a nose of biscuit, truffles and citrus and a rich and full-bodied peach and brioche palate.

Simpsons Chalklands Classic Cuvée 2017, £28

The first release of this elegant and luxurious English Sparkling Wine from Kent was awarded a Gold Medal and a “Best in Class” title at the 2019 Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships. The 2017 vintage is an excellent and worthy follow-up, with an exotic caramelised pear and millefeuille pastry nose and opulent orchard fruit flavours.

Raimes Single Vineyard Classic 2015, £30

The south-facing chalky slopes of the Raimes family vineyard in Hampshire paired with the skills of the expert winemakers at Hattingley Valley help this classic English sparkling wine achieve a delicate balance of ripeness, acidity and berry aroma.