JWL Issue #132: English and Welsh Sparkling Wine

March 9, 2021

Sending three glasses of wine through the letterbox has long been something I've wanted to do. Last week, we sent the last of our beta programme packages out. I cannot wait to hear your feedback.

As well as a new tier for our subscription, we will also be using By The Glass for Zoom tastings. The first of these is coming up at the end of March.

Domaine Tempier is one of the most renowned vineyards in the entire world. It's rosé is one of the few ageworthy ones, and it makes single-varietal reds from mourvedre. The Domaine was led for decades by Lucien and Lulu Peyraud. Lulu, who died last year aged 102, had huge influence on cookery all the world over, while Lucien's winemaking has made a place in history.

Tempier wines start at about £30 per bottle, and rise quite quickly as you track down old vintages. We are selling a vertical tasting (that means where you get different vintages of the same wine) for £62. You get five glasses, two rosé and three reds from different vintages.

Join us on Friday 26 March for this tasting, which we're limiting to 12 places.

March box tastealong

It's time for our March tastealong. Join us this Wednesday night at 8pm to taste the two March wines – Bulgarian ruen, and the Portugese Vale de Lobos. Head over to our YouTube, subscribe and then set yourself a reminder via this link now.

March Wine List Lives

As well as the Tempier tasting, we also have a few other very special tastings lined up. This Saturday, we explore an introduction to Bordeaux tasting two incredible bottles – one a decade old.

On Saturday 20th, we host our first-ever virtual dinner party where you get wine, cognac and a recipe to cookalong. And we're ending the month with a guide to chocolate and wine pairing.

Competition winners

We ran a competition on Instagram last week for the best photo of the March box. Congrats to @redwineadventures for this photo. A bottle of something special is on its way to you.

Taste & Learn

It's Mother's Day this weekend, so we're covering a few English sparkling wines you could buy for those. We review them in Taste and have a primer on why England is so suited to sparkling wine in Learn.


English and Welsh sparkling wine

One of Britain's fastest growing producers is Black Chalk. Headed by Jacob Leadley, who earnt his stripes at nearby Hattingley, Black Chalk's Classic 2016 (£40 at Good Wine Shop) has won more gold medals from reputable places than you can shake a stick at. This leans fruit-driven compared to some of the longer lees-aged wines out there, but it's refreshing and crisp and a perfect treat.

Wiston Estate Cuvee 2015 (£35.50 direct) is 45% pinot noir and you can feel it. Full-bodied and deep gold in colour. This was like drinking fizzy apricots, concentrated, complex, and lovely. This English estate has been around since 1743, but it’s South African Pip Goring who injected the bold colour on their winelabels.

Langham’s beat the top Champagne producers to win the title of Best Sparkling Wine Producer in the International Awards last year. Langham Corallian NV (£27 direct) has such a creamy mousse. The finer the wine, the finer the bubbles. You can really feel this here as they softly sizzle away.

There are very few biodynamic vineyards in the UK. Even fewer in Wales. Ancre Hill is leading the charge in that venn diagram. Their 2013 Blanc de Blancs (£72 from Handford) isn't cheap, but it is incredible. This is a serious wine with long lees ageing, a deep and rich bread nose and palate, with an exceptionally long finish. This is amongst the best that British sparkling wine gets.


Why is Britain so suited to sparkling wine?

Sparkling wine goes through not one but two fermentations. Grapes need to have high acidity and low sugar to feel fresh at the end of this lengthy process.

England is great for this, as we know it’s a pretty cool climate here. Grapes struggle to ripen which means they have exactly those two things.

Back in the 80s, English vineyards were growing rather sour grapes. Hotter summers give an extra sugar boost to our grapes. Year after year we’re producing better quality wines as the weather changes.

Our chalky soil is the same as that in Champagne. It drains well so the vines don’t get too soggy. Most sparkling wines produced uses the same grapes, and now, with the similar climate, it’s enough to rival the Goliath if sparkling wine.

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