Cheers to 2018.
What does the year ahead hold for English sparkling wine?
What does 2018 hold for English sparkling wine? Maybe there are some clues in that other big question of the year – Brexit.
2018 is the year in which Brexit will bite, and we’ll begin to see the outlines of the newly-independent country we’re going to be living in.
Everyone has a different vision. Some dream of a unique British destiny, echoing our glorious past. Others are hoping to cleave as closely as possible to the old order. The reality is likely to be something between the two.
The same can probably be said for English sparkling wine.
The wines we make in this country are unique to our soil and climate. Thanks to global warming, Champagne is moving away from being called a cool-climate region. In many ways, it’s English sparkling wine that is now produced on the very edge of what is possible, capturing the delicate aromas and nuances that Champagne once did. Bride Valley in particular, is defined by the distinct minerality and chalky character of our the Kimmeridge Basin, which lies under Dorset and Northern France.
And yet there’s absolutely no denying where the idea came from: France. We are making something in England that has the continent in its DNA. And our industry could never have got off the ground if it weren’t for technical help, inspiration, and, most important of all, the vine root-stocks we imported from Europe.
But the more wine-making in the UK develops, the more adventurous English growers and winemakers are likely to become in their blends, and in the grapes they’re willing to use.
For example, the pinot meunier grape is a traditional pillar of any classic sparkling wine. But many English producers now believe that pinot blanc or gris is better suited to our climate and soil – and will eventually form part of a new, intrinsically English approach.
Bit by bit, as growers try new combinations and play with the new tools at their disposal, distinct English blends will emerge. These will have their roots in the model we started by emulating Champagne – but will also have been shaped by our unique environment and experience.
The process won’t be completed overnight and the ideal blend won’t arrive in one blinding insight – it will be a result of trial and error over many years.
Maybe that is the best way to think about what lies ahead, in politics and wine?
We don’t know what the future holds, but if we stick to our ideals, and remain open to the best ideas from abroad, there’s a good chance that our wines can represent the best possible combination of our shared past and unique present.