Share and compare – Champagne and English Sparkling Wine

by Alan Kingsbury - Tuesday April 11, 2017 1:04 pm

Taking advantage of the current wine offers at Marks & Spencer this month, we look at the differences between quality bubbles from both sides of the Channel.

English Sparkling Wine. No, it doesn't have a better name than that but its high quality is indisputable and its reputation is growing exponentially. 

Often employing Champagne grapes, often grown on English soils similar to those of the Champagne region and made with the Champagne method, the simple question is; is English Sparkling Wine as good as Champagne?

We took a bottle of old world 'Français' and a very comparable bottle of upstart 'Anglais' and proffered them in a blind tasting to an unsuspecting group of wine lovers asking three questions.

Firstly, can you tell the difference? Secondly, if so, can you describe the difference, and lastly, do you have a preference?

Chapel Down English Sparkling Reserve Brut from one of England's leading producers, is a cuvée made exclusively for M&S employing the traditional Champagne grape varieties.

Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are blended with the addition of some Pinot Blanc.

It is sophisticated and very well balanced with soft bubbles and a silky texture.

Flavours of ripe orchard apples and lemon cake are subtly combined and gratifyingly persistent.

Champagne Abel Charlot Brut from Reims is also made from the holy trinity of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes.

Darker in colour and more vigorously moussed than the Chapel down, Abel Charlot is deep,dry and classically structured.

The rich fruit and citric brightness is underpinned with bread-crust yeastiness typical of the lees ageing so valued in Champagne.

And the results of our unofficial survey?

Well, people get very happy when they start drinking bubbly, that's for sure; but yes they could tell the difference and very much enjoyed identifying the markedly different characteristics.

As for preference, after much sipping we all agreed that both wines are in fact equally enjoyable and well made. Perhaps they are suitable for different occasions.

The robust nature of the Champagne Abel Charlot Brut would cut well through the lively atmosphere of a crowded drinks reception while the gentler Chapel Down English Sparkling Reserve Brut would be ideal to accompany a smoked salmon platter on a spring afternoon at home.

Vive la difference!

These wines are both currently on offer at Marks & Spencer until 24th April 2017 - Chapel Down English Sparkling Reserve Brut was £22  now £17  - Champagne Abel Charlot Brut was £34  now £ 17

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