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Champagne Vs English Sparkling Wine: There Really Is No Contest

By Holly Black (26 Jun 13)
Tags: english wine,british wine,wine list,champagne wine,champagne v english wine,sparkling wine tasting,charing cross hotel,wine tasting,blind tasting,london bars,london restaurants,where to drink wine in london,

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One of the best things to do in London is drink English sparkling wine in the Charing Cross Hotel (pictured above), simply because Champagne just doesn't seem to suit the surroundings.

I'm in the luxurious surroundings of a central London hotel by Trafalgar Square and, dammit, I want to drink something English. No, take the gin away squire, I want something with bubbles. Ginger beer? That's not quite what I had in mind.

English sparkling wine first made it on to my radar after a particularly cringe-inducing episode of The Apprentice last year. It's safe to say the candidates' TV campaign didn't win me over.

And, I think that's the problem that many people have with English sparkling wine – it just doesn't sound like it's going to be any good. Us Brits might have redeemed ourselves a little at last year's Olympics, but, generally, we don't tend to be the best at anything; we're more a ‘it's the taking part that counts' kind of nation.

Gastronomy, in particular, has never been our strong point. We're a country of pies and frying things in calorie-laden batter. But, maybe, just maybe, English sparkling wine is helping to turn things around.

In a blind tasting of four ESW's against four Champagnes, our home grown produce was the out and out winner for me.

Fizz from Chapel Down was crisp and fresh and a vintage offering from Jenkyn Place, in Hertfordshire, was rich, buttery and beautiful. The quality and the variety on offer from England was truly impressive.

And to prove this point I can do no more than take some quotes from my mum's “score sheet" for the evening. It's always a gamble taking your mother out for the night.

Given a table upon which we were to make notes about ‘nose and aroma', ‘appearance' and the like, Mother got a tad competitive, even scoring herself with ticks and crosses for when she guessed the origin of each tipple rightly or wrongly.

The opinion on the first drink, which turned out to be champagne: ‘Tastes like it's been open for two days. Nothing noticeable in aroma but I have a poor sense of smell.'

The second drink, which was sparkling wine: ‘Better than the first one.'

See, she's a natural connoisseur.

But English Sparkling Wine was definitely the winner, scoring comments such as ‘smooth', ‘nice and peachy with a subtle bubble', ‘best so far' and ‘the colour makes me want to drink this'.

She might not be an expert, but she knows what she likes.

English produce currently accounts for just 1.6% of the sparkling wine industry, we are told, but it is growing by almost double each year. I tell the panellists that I think a switch to a more catchy name might help, but we can't come up with a better alternative; Blighty Bubbles, anyone?

In a world where we're all so worried about the air miles of our food shop, it seems bizarre to me that we will happily skip down the wine aisle with reckless abandon, picking out a selection of tipples that are the equivalent of a round-the-world trip. There is enough home grown wine talent to keep us all merry for a very long time, and we need to start embracing that.

Have you ever gone through a Champagne V English Sparkling Wine taste contest? If so, share you thoughts below (by logging into Facebook).

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