Tasting T2.1 UK Sparkling Wines

So British sparkling wines. As you may or may not know, British sparkling wine is coming on rather well and has been for the last decade. The key growing areas are Surrey, Kent and Sussex. However, certainly you can see vineyards across the entire south and south west of the country. The 3 primary grapes that are grown are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier (surprisingly the same ones used for Champagne!). We then have Bacchus, Ortega and a couple of others.

The rise in British sparkling wines is almost certainly assisted by the increase in temperature due to climate change. It will certainly be interesting to see how the industry is shaped over the next decade or two. Alas, we must move on…

The Wineries are:

Simpsons Wine Estate

Charles and Ruth Simpson purchased Domaine de Sainte Rose in the Languedoc region of France in 2002. They have produced some fantastic wines there which have won many awards. When the opportunity to come back to England and produce wine in Kent arrived they could hardly turn it down. In 2012 they decided to open Simpsons Wine Estate where they planted Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir. Both white, red and sparkling wines are made here with huge success. They have 30 hectares of production now and are producing some beautiful wines.

Gusbourne Estate

Andrew Weeber planted the first vines in 2004 at Gusbourne. They have 60 hectares in Appledore, Kent and 30 hectares next to the Goodwood Estate in West Sussex. Predominantly Burgundian clones of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay were planted. Since 2010 they have won many prestigious awards and continue to win accolades every year since.

Chapel Down

Located in Tenterden, Kent, England’s leading wine producer, certainly by volume, started its wine life producing sparkling wines from two of the traditional Champagne grapes, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It also uses the same ‘traditional’ method of producing sparkling wine where the bubbles occur naturally within the bottle.

Roebuck Estates

In the heart of the Sussex countryside, this estate was founded by two friends who wanted to create great sparkling wines, every year. In 2013 they purchased their first parcel of land in West Sussex. They now have six parcels across the counties of Sussex and Kent which produce exceptional quality fruit. The sky, it seems, is the limit for Roebuck.

Tonight’s tasters are David, Harry, Kim & Jen.

Simpsons Flint Fields Blanc de Noirs 2018

100% Pinot Noir. Base wine goes through malolactic fermentation and spends three months in tank and barrel ageing (20%) on light lees. After bottle fermentation the wine spends twenty seven months ageing on yeast lees before disgorgement. Further ageing of six months under cork.

Note: Apples, pears, white flowers and biscuit on the nose… very enjoyable. Silky smooth on the palate with a creamy texture and very fine bubbles. Delicate and subtle with gorgeous notes of brioche, strawberries and citrus. Lovely acidity offering up fresh fruit and a lovely, long finish giving off those limey citrus notes again. Highly recommend, particularly for the price!

Gusbourne Blanc de Blanc 2016

100% Chardonnay (clearly). Fermented in stainless steel tanks with a small percentage fermented in old oak barrels.

Note: We start here with brioche, yeast and vanilla… really powerful with citrus, peach and nectarines coming through. Power and finesse are hallmarks of this wine, really impressive. Lovely brioche, peach and orange peel on the palate with a fine and elegant cremeaux, lingering forever it seems. This has beautiful concentration and will stand up to many if not all Champagne and is really a fantastic wine. A gorgeously long finish to top it off, just a stand out wine.

Chapel Down Kit’s Coty Blanc de Blanc 2015

Malolactic fermentation and 29% of the blend is matured in barrel before ageing on the lees for three and a half years before release.

Note: On the nose we have brioche, yeast and citrus with peach and nectarine. A very fine cremeaux on the palate with lively bubbles. High acidity here which is giving lots of lemon and limey notes with plenty of freshness and vibrancy. An excellent structure and body with a textured mouthfeel. Really lovely and definitely something to have in your cellar. Again those citrus fruits really prominent in the finish.

Roebuck Estates Classic Cuvee 2014

44% Pinot Noir, 42% Chardonnay, 14% Pinot Meunier. Whole bunch pressed and fermented in a mix of stainless steel and French oak. Ageing on the lees for minimum of 36 months.

Note: At first it is quite vegetal on the nose with citrus, brioche and vanilla coming through later. Fine bubbles with excellent roundness of body. Gorgeous notes of apple and citrus with limes and orange zest really clear. A very good depth of flavour with lovely concentration of fruit and powerful but elegant body. Racy acidity with a nice medium length finish.

Chapel Down Three Graces 2013

Cool fermentation in stainless steel then malolactic fermentation. Maturation on fine lees in tank for six months before bottling. Eighteen months ageing on lees before release.

Note: Really concentrated aromas of fruit with baked apple, brioche and hints of honey. Extremely fine bubbles on the palate with a long and textured cremeaux… so much going on here. Tarte tatin notes on the palate with orange, honey and baked stone fruits. Textured, balanced and well-rounded with layered complexity. This is seriously stunning, still a gorgeous hit of acidity running through this wine providing limey freshness. Top stuff here.


Honestly, I was really nicely surprised here. These wines were far better than I was expecting. Take note, if there is one thing that we are actually good at in the wine industry it is producing some great sparkling wines. Certainly two of them tasted here would knock many a Champagne off its perch and probably others as well.

Whilst climate change is an important issue that we need to be aware of, it has certainly allowed us to produce some great wines. Due to the change in temperature mainly this has allowed for a longer ripening season and therefore better results when harvesting and vinifying the grapes.

The scores:

Simpsons Flint Fields 2018 – 92 Points

Gusbourne Blanc de Blanc 2016 – 95 Points

Chapel Down Kit’s Coty 2015 – 91 Points

Roebuck Estates Classic Cuvee 2014 – 92 Points

Chapel Down Three Graces 2013 – 95 Points

As you can see some great wines here and as I said above, certainly would knock some Champagne’s off their perch as well.

We’ll have another article out soon, perhaps next week but more likely the week after.

I hope you enjoyed this article and thank you very much for reading as always.

Harry Vernau

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