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How is English sparkling wine made?

Wine producers in England use the traditional method (also known as Méthode Champenoise) to make their sparkling wine. By mimicking the Champagne making process, they are able to produce fine sparkling wines of Champagne quality. After all, they use the same grape varietals (Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir) and the soil and climate in the UK is now the same.

Step one: Harvest
The Pinot Meunier grapes are harvested first, then Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Grape harvesting is done by hand to ensure they are free from damage.

Step two: Pressing
It’s important to press the grapes as soon as possible to prevent the skins from tainting the juice.

Step three: First Fermentation
The first fermentation happens in stainless steel, leaving a neutral wine high in acidity.

Step four: Blending
The wine is then blended in the “house style” – this is known as “Assemblage”.

Step five: Second Fermentation
Next, a combination of sugar, yeast and still wine will be added to the blend and mixed before being bottled and left to ferment. During this time, the yeast will start to consume the sugar, releasing carbon dioxide. As the wine is bottled, there’s nowhere for the carbon dioxide to escape so it dissolves into the wine, leaving it fizzy. This process can take up to eight weeks.

Step six: Lees Ageing
The wine is then left to age in its bottle during which time it begins to interact with the dead yeast cells (lees), influencing the end flavour of the wine.

Step seven: Reumage/ Riddling
Once the ageing process is complete, the dead yeast cells must be removed – a process known as riddling (reumage). Over time, the wine is tilted until it is left upside down in a vertical position. This allows the sediment to move towards the neck of the bottle.

Step eight: Disgorgement
The neck is then submerged into an ice bath to solidify the dead yeast. The cap is removed from the bottle and the pressure from the carbon dioxide pushes the yeast out.

Step nine: Dosage
Next, a mixture of wine and sugar is added to the bottle. The amount added will determine the overall sweetness of the wine.

Step ten: Corking
Finally, the bottle is corked and labelled

English wine recommendations

So now you know how it’s made, how do you choose the perfect bottle of English sparkling wine to relax and unwind? We asked our wine enthusiasts for their recommendations:

Under £25
Kingscote Estate Bacchus
Camel Valley Brut Rosé
Gusbourne Guinevere
Under £50
Gusbourne Estate Blanc de Blancs
Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs
Sugrue Pierre 2010