Champagne’s pretenders to the throne

25th November, 2016 by Lucy Shaw

UNTAPPED LAND

Having been the first to announce its English sparkling ambitions, Taittinger was soon followed by Pommery, which announced shortly afterwards that it had partnered with Hampshire producer Hattingley Valley on an English fizz due out in 2019. English sparkling wine production is set to double to 10 million bottles over the next four years, and applications to develop UK vineyards are at an all-time high.

But while there is extensive untapped land ripe for planting in England, Nyetimber’s winemaker, Brad Greatrix, warns that huge variation in yields from year-toyear and the unpredictability of the weather will test the nerves of even the most hardened of vintners.

“You can’t just get a map out and look for the chalk and green sand. You really have to think about all the variables, from aspect and exposure to wind speed and altitude,” he says.

Vineyards planted on chalk downland are normally at altitude, making them vulnerable to spiteful winds capable of wreaking havoc with the crop. While much has been made of the fact that England shares the same chalky soil as Champagne, Greatrix believes the long ripening season has more of an effect on the end product than terroir.

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