The results are in for the Great British Sparkling Wine Awards – find out what our judges’ voted the best performers from this exciting category.
We all know that there’s been a lot of noise around the local wine scene – particularly for the sparklers. But is it justified?
On this evidence, the answer is yes… just.
Ten years ago, tasting a line-up of British sparklers might have had an element of novelty about it, and tasters could perhaps have been inclined to cut them some slack. But now the category is well established, and our judges were quick to come down on anything they didn’t like.
Nobody would pretend that it’s easy to make wine in the UK, even sparkling. But though the region is often compared to champagne, there’s more wind and rain and less regular sunshine than northern France, which means winemakers often need nerves of steel.
In the less successful wines (as with poor champagnes) the problem was usually hard, green fruit being unsuccessfully hidden by a rather too high dosage level.
Having said that, half of the entries here scored 90 points or higher, which is impressive.
Some of the wines with big personalities saw their scores held back by one or two tasters who didn’t appreciate the style, so it’s worth reading the tasting notes.
All in all, given that the majority of the wines here were priced from £15-25 (before you start negotiating) there are plenty of good options here for your list.
As a final footnote, it’s worth pointing out that some pretty well-known names elected not to enter wines to this tasting because they ‘don’t enter competitions’. So the next time a producer is telling you how amazing they are, it’s worth asking them whether they ever put themselves to the test against their peers in a blind tasting.
If they don’t, well… you’ve only got their word to go on about how good they are.
GB Sparkling Wine – The Results
Great British Sparkling Wine Awards 2021Full list of award winning wines from The Sommelier Collective Awards.
|96||Digby Fine English||Vintage Reserve Brut 2013||Armit Wines|
|White flowers, saline and citrus - I adore the oxidative style of this wine, with oak hemmed in by tense citrus fruit.' Joshua Castle; 'Yeasty and savoury, but balanced with fruit. Long finish - this would work well with food.' Guillaume Mahaut; 'Yeasty and creamy, like a lemon almond croissant! Rich and concentrated.' Chris Goodale.|
|95||Hambledon Vineyard||Premiere Cuvee NV, Hampshire||Mentzendorff|
|Ripe stonefruit, grapefruit and citrus with creamy mousse. Complex and balanced.' Klearhos Kanellakis; 'Apples, lemon, toast and almond blossom. Fine-beaded, persistent and balanced.' Emanuel Pesqueira; 'Good balance of old vintage notes. A complex, powerful palate, but balanced.' Guillaume Mahaut.|
|93||Digby Fine English||Non Vintage Brut||Armit Wines|
|Loads of red apple, croissant and citrus. Bright acidity and bright, tiny bubbles. A classic - and great value.' Andres Ituarte; 'Lemon curd, brioche, apple and spice. Good for by the glass.' Chris Goodale; 'Great open nose of cranberries and strawberries. This is good value.' Harry Ballman.|
|92||Gusbourne||Blanc de Blancs 2016, Kent||Gusbourne|
|Chalky nose with bright, green and citrus fruit. It's delicate and yeasty, but good. Complex.' Guillaume Mahaut; 'Fresh orchard fruits, melon and spice with a creamy finish.' Chris Goodale; 'Lemon meringue, with a delicate bready character. Good freshness.' Raphael Thierry.|
|92||Ridgeview||Blanc de Blancs 2016, Sussex||Bibendum|
|Fresh apples and apple blossom, with a ripe, round palate and bright acidity.' KK; 'Great brioche nose, with stone fruit and lemony complexity. High quality fruit.' MR; 'Bright, pure, zesty honey and apples with breezy lemony acidity.' CL|
|92||Breaky Bottom||Cuvée Michelle Moreau Brut 2014, Sussex||Corney & Barrow|
|Subtle stoney aromas. The palate is stern and serious. A lean, classic style.' Joshua Castle; 'Fresh and intense lemon character. Focused wine, creamy and balanced with an elegant yeasty character.' Raphael Thierry; 'Tart, but in a good way, with lots of yeasty notes. White fruits and a long perfumed finish.' Andres Ituarte.|
|91||Roebuck Estates||Classic Cuvée 2014, Sussex||Roebuck Estates|
|Really pretty nose. I love the subtle orchard fruit and citrus characters! Palate is delicious too - creamy and yeasty. Really lovely wine.' Charles Carron Brown; 'Delicate lemon flavours, round and creamy with good balance.' Guillaume Mahaut; 'Subtle nose, but the palate delivers - fleshy stone fruit.' Joshua Castle.|
|91||Roebuck Estates||Blanc de Noirs 2015, Sussex||Roebuck Estates|
|Red berry fruit with tart lemon/lime citrus and mineral on the palate.' Chris Goodale; 'Lemon curd and melon. Intense fruit. Creamy and winey with a refreshing finish.' Raphael Thierry; 'Red berry nose with a fruity palate - this is complex, balanced and long.' Guillaume Mahaut.|
|91||Roebuck Estates||Rosé de Noirs 2016, Sussex||Roebuck Estates|
|Raspberries, strawberries and cream and a touch of salt. Elegant and very good.' Andres Ituarte; 'Tart, fresh and good intensity. Lovely wine.' Chris Goodale; 'Dark cherry, red apple and nectarines. Vibrant and well-balanced.' Emanuel Pesqueira.|
|90||The Grange||Classic NV, Hampshire||The Grange|
|Stony nose with some subtle yellow fruit. A reductive style, but tense and dry with a lovely chalky texture.' Joshua Castle; 'Lovely balance, with plenty of fresh orchard fruits. Lively and exciting - a great aperitif wine.' Charles Carron Brown; 'Citrus, stonefruit, raspberries and cherries. Long length. Complex andn well-balanced.' Klearhos Kanellakis.|
|90||Lyme Bay Winery||Blanc de Blancs 2016||Lyme Bay Winery|
|Peach, melon and nuts with zippy acidity.' Andres Ituarte; 'Quite simple, but fresh and fruity.' Raphael Thierry; 'Lovely fruits and good complexity for the money.' Guillaume Mahaut.|
|90||Bolney Wine Estate||Blanc de Blancs 2017, West Sussex||Bolney Wine Estate|
|Toasty brioche and orchard fruits. Very showy and aromatic. An open and relaxed style.' Joshua Castle; 'Bruised tree fruits and yeasty notes, with hints of white flowers. Classic Blanc de Blanc.' Andres Ituarte; 'Pineapple and exotic stone fruit; lees and oak. Quite developed.' Harry Ballman.|
|90||Hambledon Vineyard||Classic Cuvee Rose NV, Hampshire||Mentzendorff|
|Red apple, spices, mushroom and white strawberry. Complex and different, but with excellent balance.' Emanuel Pesqueira; 'Pure red fruits and bready notes. Rich and rustic with a long, grippy finish. Needs food, ideally.' Andres Ituarte; 'Wow! There's a lot here. Red cherries, rhubarb, raspberry and floral notes. Persistent and lively. Exciting wine!' Charles Carron Brown.|
|90||Biddenden Vineyards||Sparkling Ortega Demi-Sec 2019, Kent||Biddenden Vineyards|
|Beautiful elderflower character - the sweet aromatic flavours are balanced with the freshness and bubbles. This could work very well with food.' Raphael Thierry; 'This wine has real personality and pizzaz. Something different that could work wonderfully with the right dessert.' Andres Ituarte. 'Fruity, floral, tropical and sweet.' Klearhos Kanellakis;|
|89||Ridgeview||Bloomsbury NV, Sussex||Bibendum|
|Lime, green apples and peaches with a vinous finish. Flinty, fruity and mineral, this is quite complex for the price.' KK; 'Pretty nose, with fine mousse and a dry finish.' MR,|
|89||The Althorne Estate||High House Classic Cuvee 2019, Essex||Althorne Estate|
|Fruity, floral and perfumed. Pretty nose with a fine mousse and some complexity.' Guillaume Mahaut; 'Lovely nose of rose petals, tulips and wild strawberries. Racy palate.' Charles Carron Brown; 'Red fruit, citrus and a lot of lees on the palate.' Klearhos Kanellakis.|
|87||All Angels||Classic Cuvée Long Aged on Lees 2014, Berkshire||Alliance Wine|
|Smoky, savoury - not the most complex wine, but ok.' Harry Ballman; 'Tart, green apple nose, with a fleshier mouthfeel than expected on the palate. Finish rather short.' Joshua Castle.|
|87||Divergent Drinks||Fitz Sparkling Brut NV||Bibendum|
|Lemon, white peach, apple and green pear with balanced acidity. Simple, but well made.' Emanuel Pesqueira; 'White melon and nectarine. High acid, but not volatile.' Andres Ituarte|
|87||Lyme Bay Winery||Sparkling Rosé NV||Lyme Bay Winery|
|Floral, with sweet red fruits like pink grapefruit and rhubarb. Fit for purpose.' Charles Carron Brown; 'Red fruit and flowers with a fragrant bitterness on the finish.' Raphael Thierry.|
|87||All Angels||Classic Cuvée Sparkling Rosé 2014, Berkshire||Alliance Wine|
|Cranberries, strawberries and rose petals. Well-integrated wild flower aromas.'Tart and mineral with a good intensity and a decent finish.' Chris Goodale.|
|86||Hambledon Vineyard||Classic Cuvee NV, Hampshire||Mentzendorff|
|Rich, honeyed nose, but slightly unbalanced acidity.' Harry Ballman; 'Bruised fruits, with a sharp, green palate.' Guillaume Mahaut.|
|86||The Althorne Estate||High House Sparkling Rose 2019, Essex||Althorne Estate|
|Cherry compote and creamy mousse. Rich - better with food.' Andres Ituarte; 'Almost a sherbet aroma of very ripe red fruits.' Charles Carron Brown|
|85||Lyme Bay Winery||Classic Cuvée 2016||Lyme Bay Winery|
|Green apples, citrus and brioche. Quite high dosage but a refreshing, fruity finish.' Klearhos Kanellakis; 'Ample fruit, but rather clipped on the palate.' Joshua Castle.|
|85||The Grange||Pink NV, Hampshire||The Grange|
|Garden berries, cream and green apple, but unbalanced acids on the finish.' Andres Ituarte; 'Cranberries and pink grapefruit, with a slight bitterness on the palate.' Emanuel Pesqueira.|
|84||Mountfield Winery||Classic Cuvée NV, Sussex||Top Selection|
|Very fresh, vibrant fruit.' Charles Carron Brown; 'Grapefruit and green apples. Steely.' Emanuel Pesqueira.|
How The Tasting Worked
Our tasters were aware of each wine’s price, vintage, and the varieties used in making it, but nothing else.
We asked them to score the wines out of 100, bearing in mind typicity, food-friendliness, versatility and readiness to drink, using the guidelines below.
- 80-85 – the wine is adequate, but probably not to be considered for your list.
- 86-90 – the wine is reasonably good – and would be considered for a list if it came from a supplier you currently use. Acceptably priced.
- 91-95 – the wine is very good and you would be keen to list it – maybe even dropping an existing wine to make way for it. Overdelivers for the money.
- 96-100 – the wine is exceptional, and you would actively seek it out and be keen to sell it, even if you had to drop something else or take on a new supplier to do so. Very much overdelivers for the money.
GB Sparkling Wine Awards Tasting – Judges’ Recommendations
At the Collective, we know that you guys love to get recommendations from your peers. So we asked our judges at the British Sparkling Wines tasting to pick out their own personal favourite wine from the tasting.
It didn’t need to be one of the highest scoring or most expensive wines; just something that they really liked – for whatever reason.
And of course, if they liked it, maybe you will too.
All of these, in other words, are well worth a look. But on this evidence if you only check out one new winery, it should probably be Digby.
Digby Fine English Vintage Reserve Brut 2013 (96 points)
A compelling nose, with aromas of white flowers and saline citrus rind. I adore the subtle oxidative style, which features a subtle oak character hemmed in by tense citrus and smokey flavours. It’s a gastronomic style that would make a fitting counterpart to savoury food – particularly if it’s served in large format glasses or even decanted.
Hambledon Vineyard Premiere Cuvée nv, Hampshire (92 points)
There’s a great balance here between fruit and acidity and between primary aromas (such as fruit) and secondary aromas such as brioche and autolysis. It’s got a long lingering finish and superb complexity – excellent price for the quality of the wine. I’d serve it with turbot in a caviar champagne sauce.
Digby Fine English Non Vintage Brut (93 points)
There’s lovely acidity in this wine that perfectly balances the dosage. It’s a very classic – and classy – sparkling wine that I think would be very versatile. Good as an aperitif, of course, but also paired with shellfish, seafood – even caviar.
Breaky Bottom Cuvée Michelle Moreau Brut 2014, Sussex (92 points)
This is a really typical English sparkling wine – fresh, focused and creamy. There’s an intense lemon character but it’s taut and balanced with an elegant, yeasty finish. Excellent!
£29.96, Corney and Barrow
Digby Fine English Non Vintage Brut (93 points)
With lemon curd on brioche toast and fresh lime rind with a sprinkling of nutmeg, this is complex and even slightly oxidative, but with really good depth. The presence of 25% Meunier brought in a lovely spice and fruit texture. It could be a great by the glass option for people who like a dynamic ESW.
Charles Carron Brown
Hambledon Vineyard Classic Cuvée Rosé nv, Hampshire (90 points)
This wine really gives you a lot. It’s very pretty and exciting, with bags of fresh rhubarb and red cherries. It’s floral and very persistent with a fresh, vibrant palate. It’s great as an aperitif or with seafood or fresh vegetables. It’d be a great addition to any list, at a price that’s well worth the money.
Digby Fine English Vintage Reserve Brut 2013 (96 points)
Vinified in oak, this is rich and rounded but structured, too, with well-balanced acidity. Chardonnay dominant, there’s a honeyed, butterscotch note, held in place by vibrant and juicy citrus. It has vibrancy and personality – a premium by the glass alternative to Champagne. Great for Dover sole meunière.
The Grange Classic nv, Hampshire (90 points)
There are fresh citrus, stone fruit, raspberries, cherries and brioche in this wine – a real complexity of aromas. But the mouthfeel is good, too. There’s a creamy mousse to go with the good concentration, and the acidity isn’t aggressive. The finish is long. I’d serve this by the glass, and it would be great paired with scallops or oysters.
£20.24 from The Grange; firstname.lastname@example.org
Digby Fine English Vintage Reserve Brut 2013 (96 points)
This wine absolutely ticks all of the boxes. It’s a great nose – savoury and yeasty, with ripe, bruised fruit. But it’s perfectly balanced, with a long finish. I’d serve this with meaty fish such as turbot or brill.
GB Sparkling Wine Awards Tasting – List Champions
One of the things that makes our Awards tastings unique is that they’re totally focused on the on-trade. Not just because they’re judged by sommeliers, but also because we ask our tasters to select wines for very specific restaurant list roles.
These include Best for By The Glass, Best for Group Dining and Best for Preservation System. But we also give out an award for the best overall wine in the tasting (Best in Class) and for the wine with the best score to price ratio – Best Value.
They’re a bit different – certainly we don’t know of any other competition that has an award system like this. But these awards are highly practical – designed to reward wines whose style, price and quality all make them perfect for the job.
We hope you like them and find them useful.
And many congratulations to our winners, who have come through three rounds of judging to pick up these awards.
Best in Class
Digby Fine English Vintage Reserve Brut 2013
This award goes to the wine with the best overall score, with the 2013 Digby Vintage Reserve narrowly fighting off the Hambledon Premiere Cuvée. Three of our judges also picked it as their favourite overall wine in the Judges’ Recommendations.
It wasn’t the cheapest wine in the tasting, but nor was it the most expensive, and with plenty of extra bottle age, our tasters all felt that you got an awful lot of wine for your money.
‘White flowers, saline and citrus – I adore the oxidative style of this wine, with oak hemmed in by tense citrus fruit.’ Joshua Castle
‘Yeasty and savoury, but balanced with fruit. Long finish – this would work well with food.’ Guillaume Mahaut
‘Yeasty and creamy, like a lemon almond croissant! Rich and concentrated.’ Chris Goodale
Best Value for Money
Lyme Bay Winery Blanc de Blancs 2016
On one level, this is a very straightforward award – it goes to the wine with the best price to score ratio. Based purely on this calculation, the Fitz charmat-method (87 points, £13 from Bibendum) would win.
But our judges also felt that any List Champion should have a minimum score of 90 – which left us with the Biddenden Ortega demi-sec or the Lyme Bay Blanc de Blancs 2016.
And while half our tasters loved the Ortega – a steal at £13.76 – it’s an unusual style and not everyone ‘got it’. The Lyme Bay, they felt, was less polarising, and still delivered a lot of quality for the money – especially in the ‘100% Chardonnay’ field, where it was the cheapest by some distance.
‘Peach, melon and nuts with zippy acidity.’ Andres Ituarte
‘Light and subtle but unfurls nicely on the palate. Good value for money.’ Josh Castle
‘Lovely fruits and good complexity for the money.’ Guillaume Mahaut
£18.30, Lyme Bay Winery, email@example.com
Best for By The Glass
Roebuck Estates Classic Cuvée 2014, Sussex
The winner here needs to do two things: be easy-going enough to drink on its own (especially important for fizz, obviously) but also to have enough weight to go with food. Since this is, effectively, in the ‘house pour’ category, our judges also wanted a very classic expression of English sparkling wine.
And that is what we got from the elegant, delicate, balanced Roebuck. A new name on the ESW scene, they’re not a winery that most of you are likely to be familiar with. Their impressive scores in this tasting suggest that, on this evidence, you should be.
‘Really pretty nose. I love the subtle orchard fruit and citrus characters! Palate is delicious too – creamy and yeasty. Really lovely wine.’ Charles Carron Brown
‘Delicate lemon flavours, round and creamy with good balance.’ Guillaume Mahaut
‘Subtle nose, but the palate delivers – fleshy stone fruit.’ Joshua Castle
£20.83, Roebuck Estates; firstname.lastname@example.org
Best for Group Dining
Digby Fine English Non Vintage Brut
For the Group Dining award our judges were looking for a wine that was a slight financial and stylistic upgrade on By the Glass and was also made in a non-controversial, crowd-pleasing style.
This nv Digby rounded off a spectacularly successful tasting for the West Sussex estate, with consistently high scores, two List Champion awards and multiple peer-recommendations from our judges.
‘Loads of red apple, croissant and citrus. Bright acidity and bright, tiny bubbles. A classic – and great value.’ Andres Ituarte
‘Lemon curd, brioche, apple and spice. Good for by the glass.’ Chris Goodale
‘Great open nose of cranberries and strawberries. This is good value.’ Harry Ballman
Best for Preservation System
Hambledon Vineyard Classic Cuvée Rosé nv, Hampshire
Having a wide range of wines on by the glass-pour can really add something to the list. For this award, our tasters were happy not to play it safe and were looking for wines with big personality.
A case was rightly made for the Biddenden Ortega, but in the end they went for this powerful, food-friendly Hambledon pink. Not everyone loved it, but those who did totally fell for its charms – which is almost the definition of a Preservation System wine.