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Wine List: Pop the bubbly for English Wine Week

He’s worked in wine for more than 30 years - both in supply and production, both at home and abroad - and now manages Cambridge’s Majestic Wine store. In his May column for Velvet, Hamish Wakes-Miller pops the bubbly for English Wine Week

A great British vineyard
A great British vineyard

Most people will have celebrated marriages, christenings, balls, birthdays or anniversaries with a bottle of bubbly. These events become embedded in our memories; joyous occasions with families getting together, united in celebration or festivity. And many of us, having spent the last two years dreaming of family get-togethers, will be ‘going large’ on the bubbles this spring and summer.

Veuve Clicquot, Bollinger, Laurent Perrier, Taittinger, Krug, Louis Roederer, Pol Roger, Ruinart, Piper Heidsieck are all immediately recognisable names for quality Champagne. These historic houses have tactfully developed their brands over many years with fabulous links to famous occasions.

When I visited Pol Roger’s HQ in Reims recently, the first thing I noticed was the selection of menus and wine lists adorning the entrance corridor. Apparently, HRH Prince William of Wales and Miss Catherine Middleton required 300 Magnums of Pol Roger Brut Reserve NV delivered to Buckingham Palace for their wedding in April 2011, while HRH Prince Henry of Wales and Miss Meghan Markle only required 240 magnums of the same fizz for their event at Windsor Castle in May 2018.

The French have been extremely clever at developing their brands close to European royal families and world leaders. Louis Roederer

Champagne created their top wine ‘Cristal’ specifically for Tsar Alexander 2nd in the 19th century. The original bottles were crystal clear and flat bottomed as the Tsar was paranoid about being


However, that is the past! How much has changed in the last 15 years? The new, exciting, developing area for the UK consumer is the fast-evolving English sparkling wine sector. It may take many years to establish such incredible depth of history as Champagne, but we certainly have the quality. Let’s support a local success.

When we are feasting on Cromer crab and English asparagus and wonderful local seasonal produce we can now complete the table with the following English sparkling wines: Gusbourne, Hattingley, Chapel Down, Saffron Grange, Nyetimber, Balfour, Rathfinney, Hambledon, Bolney, Louis Pommery and Ridgeview.

The seam of chalk that underpins the vineyards of Champagne in northern France is in fact the same seam of chalk that appears under the South Downs in Sussex and then runs under Essex, appearing near Saffron Walden under the excellent Saffron Grange vineyard. The Stour, Orwell and Deben River valleys have great alluvial and clay soils. So, we have the soil and gradually we seem to have the climate. 2018 was a stellar year for quality and quantity in the UK vineyards and it is about time we enjoyed these wines.

English Wine Week runs May 23 to 30. Cambridge’s Majestic Wine store will be hosting promotions and tastings every day throughout.

Hamish’s Wines of the Month

Nyetimber Classic Cuvee, £41.99 per bottle or £27.99 Mix Six at Majestic

Nyetimber is made by Cherie Spriggs. She was the first woman and also the first non-Champagne winemaker to ever be named Sparkling Winemaker of the Year. Expect ripe apple, pear and fresh pastry flavours.

Chapel Down English Rose, £29.99 per bottle or £26.99 Mix Six at Majestic

Hints of rose petals and a soft strawberry character, this crisp, medium bodied sparkling wine also has a citrus streak and fine, persistent bubbles. Smoked salmon is a fantastic match to this wine.

Definition English Sparkling Brut, £27.99 per bottle or £22.99 Mix Six at Majestic

This is made with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes in the heart of Hampshire. Expect elegant notes of lemon, toast and brioche.

Hamish manages the Majestic Wine store in Cambridge. Majestic Wines also has stores in Bury St Edmunds, Newmarket and Bishop’s Stortford.

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