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English Sparkling Wine v Champagne

on April 5, 2011

What is the difference between English Sparkling Wine & Champagne?

Lots of our customers refer to our Sparkling Wine as Champagne, but what is the difference between the two?

For some “Champagne” is simply a short-hand for all Sparkling Wine, whether English, Spanish, French or Kiwi. For others, it is a term used to describe an ultimate luxury to be saved and savoured at special occasions and celebrations.

Technically, Champagne requires 3 elements.

1) It must be wine from the Champagne region, and the Champenoix monitor and defend this name vigorously, as is often reported in the press. Sparkling wines from other regions even in France have to use other names such as a Cremant from Alsace or from the Loire.

2) True Champagne is made with a combination of all or any of only 3 grape varieties – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. We grow all three in our vineyards but even if we used only these three grapes in our Sparkling Wines, it can still never be called Champagne.

3) It is made in the traditional method or “methode champenoise”, which requires a second fermentation in the bottle. It is this painstaking, labour intensive process that gives Champagne and other traditional method sparkling wines their delicous, tongue-tickling mousse and their tiny, delicate bubbles. Wines that have had carbon dioxode added to them in vats, whilst generally much cheaper, will never achieve that luxurious quality you can instantly recognise with Champagne-style wines.

Where does that leave English Sparkling Wine? All English bubbly that has “Quality Sparkling Wine” on the label is made using the same method as Champagne. However, we have historically deliberately kept away from trying to emulate Champagne. Our Brut, Rosé and Vintage Quality Sparkling Wines have more fruit, and more flavour than a classic Champagne. They are made from different grapes, that have different qualities and flavours, although, our Sparkling Rosé is made from predominantly Pinot Noir.

Our aim has been to produce a more adventurous, less austere, more easily approachable wine, without the dry mouth-feel that some Champagnes can leave you with. As one customer put it, our Sparkling Wines “have all the benefits of Champagne without the price-tag!”

That said, we know that many of you out there are connoisseurs, delighting in the way that English wines can so perfectly emulate true Champagnes. For that reason, we have recently replanted part of our vineyard with Champagne grapes so that in the future we can offer both our flavoursome English-style Sparkling Wine and a more reserved, true Champagne style. (For more on the varieties we grow, please follow this link: Grape varieties.)

Mark HuntleyEnglish Sparkling Wine v Champagne