Almost exactly 30 years ago, when I was starting out as a wine writer, an editor sent me to a tasting of English wines on the outskirts of London.
I remember a rundown village hall, trestle tables and a line-up of wines that was decidedly patchy. Most were still, not sparkling. A few showed potential; a white blossom whiff, a clean lemon streak. But more of them tasted like bad cider, while others seemed to be watered down, grubby versions of already bland German brands.
I came away disappointed and perplexed. Was England really a suitable place to make wine?
Scroll down to see Suzy Atkins’ pick of English sparkling wines
Fast forward to today and the English wine scene is nothing less than thrilling. Quality has soared, in part due to warmer conditions, but also due to the skills of highly-trained professional winemakers, using the latest equipment, with much greater viticultural understanding and, in places, helped by huge investment.
Although there is quite a buzz around the still wines, sparkling is, of course, now the triumphant and much-festooned leading style. A tasting of fine English fizz in 2022 reveals complexity, balance and finesse to rival sparklers from any other corner of the globe.
It’s still hard to get it right every time in England’s cool climate; in poor vintages like 2012 it can seem impossible. But that hasn’t stopped many talented winemakers from trying and succeeding.
My younger self would be bowled over, amazed to learn that she would become such a lover of English wine and something of a specialist writer on the subject.
Here are 10 reasons why we should all drink English sparkling wine.