The 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup is underway and a much-anticipated match will take place in Wellington on 20th February when co-hosts New Zealand take on England. Just ahead of this fixture, sparkling wines from the two nations will also compete, this time in a blind tasting dubbed the “Battle of the Bubbles“. Ahead of what promises to be a fascinating contest we look at the strengths and weaknesses of the English Team wines, beginning with, in alphabetical order, the first six.
1. Ambriel, English Reserve, NV
Ambriel’s debut was only in 2013, but managed to achieve International recognition the following year. The English Reserve NV is a demi-sec style based on Pinot Noir grapes from the estate’s first harvest in 2010. Production was only 1,000 bottles, so known to only a handful of critics and consumers. Verdict: selectors showing admirable faith by taking this gamble on highly promising, but as yet unproven youth.
2. Bluebell, Hindleap Blanc de Blancs, 2010
This was Bluebell’s fourth vintage under the direction of Kiwi Kevin Sutherland. Made from 100% Chardonnay this is an outstanding wine complex, fresh and refined, with a good record at International level. Verdict: New Zealand will regret letting Sutherland slip through their fingers as this one woos the crowd.
3. Camel Valley, White Pinot, 2010
Sam Lindo won UK winemaker of the year award for the second time in 2010 and this Blanc de Noirs won a Silver medal at the 2013 Decanter World Wine Awards. Stainless steel ferment and no MLF give this wine delicate floral aromas and bright fresh fruit and acidity. Verdict: Proven performer; great reputation. On the day will its extra age produce a duller or more complex player than we saw a few years ago?
4. Coates & Seely, Blanc de Blancs, NV
From the brains behind Britagne, this 100% Chardonnay burst onto the scene in 2012 to great acclaim. Verdict: Poised, suave and deftly constructed, reminiscent of Mark Nicholas playing at Southampton. Sure to have some big supporters, but may divide opinion.
5. Hambledon, Classic Cuvée, NV
First released in 2014, this is already a modern classic. International honours from Bollicine del Mondo in 2015. Verdict: Hambledon is not only the birthplace of modern commercial English winemaking but also The Cradle of Cricket. Its impeccable pedigree should help it pile plenty of runs on the scoreboard.
6. Henners, Brut Reserve, 2010
Plenty of awards for Henners with this Pinot Noir/Pinot Munier blend using fruit from their first harvest. Fresh acidity and creamy ripe red fruits should lead to a long finish. Verdict: Balanced, elegant, think Ted Dexter playing at Hove. Expect to see a big score unless there’s a lack of concentration on the day.