English Sparkling Wine
After several years of forensic searching across south-west England, Guy Smith and Laura Evans finally found a tiny 1 hectare plot overlooking the Somerset Levels in 2008. They planted Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay vines and began making fizz a few years later. The Somerset calcareous limestone soils at Higher Plot Farm on the edge of the Mendip hills (near Langport) are free-draining so provide ideal conditions for those champagne varietals.
Their vintage-dated and award-winning bottlings are comprised of roughly equal quantities of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay with some barrel-aged reserve wine to add richness and complexity. Low-dosage and nervy acidity gives their fizz sufficient depth to further age in bottle and develop honeyed notes alongside its classic green apple, buttery toast and mineral flavours and lengthy citrus finish.
Since making their debut in these pages in 2022, Douglas and Susanna Busi Jacobsohn's wines have been much-heralded by the press and customers alike. Situated in East Sussex's High Weald, their 5 hectares of south-west facing vines comprise Chardonnay plus Pinots Noir and Meunier. With a complete focus on sustainability both on the land and in the winery, they use green technology and minimal intervention to lessen their impact on the planet.
Depending on vintage, their Cuvée Brut is usually blended from mostly Chardonnay with roughly equal parts Pinots Noir and Meunier. Heralded by the Telegraph's Victoria Moore as 'a below the radar but extremely good English sparkling wine', its delicate aromas of citrus peel and sherbet follow to the palate with a fine mousse leading to a long, firm finish. A sibling 'Cuvée Rosé' has a lower dosage so is labelled as an 'Extra Brut' and is redolent of red berries and apples. It usually comprises some 75 to 80% Pinot Noir with the balance from Pinot Meunier. A small amount of the base blend is matured in oak barrels to add further richness and detail. With ripe cranberry and raspberry fruit, vanilla and sweet baking spices, it makes an ideal aperitif or partner to shellfish. A small-batch 'Blanc de Noirs' (a white sparkling from black-skinned grapes) from 92% Pinot Noir and the rest Pinot Meunier was added to the list in 2022 and has delicate honey and apple aromas, bright red berry fruit flavours, refreshing acidity and a little background of umami and brioche. Great with smoked salmon or oysters, this will only improve with 5 to 10+ years bottle age.