At a recent reception in New York City sponsored by UK Trade & Investment USA to mark the launch of the “World Atlas of Wine,” I expected to be overwhelmed by meeting authors Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson, two of the wine writing world’s heavyweights.
I was wrong. The biggest star — at least for me — was the bubbly being poured for the guests, Ridgeview Wine Estate’s Bloomsbury 2010. (Robinson offered her hand in a friendly greeting and Johnson stared past me as he spoke to the person next to me.)
It was my first taste of British sparkling wine and I was dazzled by this bubbly, a Chardonnay-dominant blend with added Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier produced with the traditional methods used by sparking wine producers in Champagne.
A lovely wine with a pale golden hue, it has a creamy, persistent mousse. The nose is fruity and on the palate there are concentrated notes of citrus and apple, good acidity, a hint of biscuit and a dry finish.
The wine was produced using grapes grown in Sussex in Southern England, Ridgeview co-founder and winemaker Mike Roberts, MBE, a guest at the event, told me. A large man with thinning white hair, he said consultants from across the Channel in France’s exalted bubbly producing region have provide assistance over the years.
Roberts, 70, an accountant by training and the former owner of a computing business, along with his wife, Chris, founded the winery in 1994, planting in Sussex. They produced their first vintage in 1996. Today, they have 110 acres of vines and their wines have been well reviewed and have brought home awards at international competitions.
At last year’s Decanter Wine Awards Ridgeview’s 2006 Grosvenor Blanc de Blancs took the top prize in the Champagne and Sparkling wine category.
And why shouldn’t English sparklers be as good as those made across the Channel? Kent and Sussex, where the best English sparkling wines originate, are about 88 miles north of Champagne. And the English region’s chalky are said to be very similar to the earth where famous names such as Bollinger and Dom Perignon plant their grapes. Climate change has also helped.
Ridgeview sparklers are imported to U.S. by New York City-based Grand Cru Selections. The Bloomsbury sells for about $33.
Rigdeview’s South Ridge Cuvée Merret 2009, produced exclusively for Laithwaite’s, the British wine merchant, is available for $32 through the Wall Street Journal Wine Club, which is operated in partnership with Laithwaite’s, the world’s leading direct-to-home wine seller.