Of course there cannot be English Champagne, since Champagne comes from Champagne, France, and sparkling wine from anywhere else cannot taste the same, correct? After all, the soil, climate, everything combined produces a unique terroir (a French word that oenophiles, i.e. wine nerds like, have borrowed) that profoundly effects how anything grows there, such as grapes and wine produced from it.
And let’s add the absurdity that all English wine, quite simply ranges from truly mediocre to “sucks real big time” as we say here in the colonies. Well, this may not be true anymore. Read on gentle reader and you may be amazed as I was.
In Champagne the soil is chalky limestone often mixed with clay. Exactly what do you think The White Cliffs of Dover are made of? Geologists can tell you that the same limestone we find in Champagne actually starts in Sancerre and Chablis and continues through Champagne across the English Channel to The White Cliffs of Dover and across much of Southern England. It is similar soil in Southern England, perhaps actually 90 something percent the same, a prime component of terroir. Certainly at very least there are striking geological similarities.
Now certainly in France and elsewhere, many fine wines are grown in areas that push the climactic boundaries for growing grapes. For example, in Burgundy, famous for Pinot Noir and more, the Pinot Noir is grown at essentially the northern limit of its range and doesn’t even ripen well in many years. Champagne is pretty much at the historical northern limit for its grapes, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay as well and they are harvested at lower level of ripeness than grapes necessary for producing fine non-sparking (or “still”) wines. Southern England which is farther north has historically been too far north.
Enter global warming. The south of England is slightly warmer now, and Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay are ripening just a bit more and some say producing great sparking wine.
In fact it’s reported that at Queen Elizabeth II's 80th birthday party in
2006, a blanc de blancs English sparkling wine from Ridgeview Estate, 88
miles northwest of Champagne near East Sussex, was served.
Others seem to agree and since 1990, nearly 1400 acres of Champagne’s grapes, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay have been planted, much of it to produce English Sparkling wine, or if you must, “English Champagne.”
Now I warn you, I haven’t tried any decent English wines and most of the following mentioned are not exported far if at all, although some will start entering the USA and other places soon. I’ll be looking, somewhat skeptically, to try them and certainly hope to be surprised.