A succession of hot summers has been causing havoc on the Continent; the drought depleted 2017 vintage saw the smallest aggregate grape harvest in France since 1945. Conversely, the same weather patterns seem to be benefitting British wine producers who have raised the qualitative bar to a level whereby they offer serious competition to Champagne. A case in point is the 'Smith and Evans Pinot Noir-Chardonnay' from Higher Plot Farm near Langport in Somerset. With uplifting brioche and apple aromas, a lively mousse and a persistent orchard fruit palate, it makes a terrific aperitif or partner to canapés.
Another cracking West Country fizz is Brian Shirley and Jacky Brayton's 'Sparkling Rosé' from Wraxall Vineyard in the south of the Mendip Hills. Made from bottle-fermented Pinot Noir and Seyval Blanc, it has a delicate coral-pink robe, wild strawberry scents and a red fruit palate offset by a fresh acidity.