What the Recent “Battle of the Bubbles” Tells Us About the English Sparkling Wine Industry

For English cricket supporters, the recent match at Wellington is best forgotten. Yet for supporters of English Sparkling wine the ICC Cricket World Cup may best be remembered for the two England vs New Zealand blind tasting matches that took place on 19th February 2015 in Wellingon and London. Each country was represented by a team of 12 sparkling wines, with the English team having been chosen by Oz Clarke, Julia Trustram Eve, Mike Harrison and Stephen Skelton MW.

Chris and Julia announcing the results in London
Chris and Julia announcing the results in London

At the Wellington blind tasting, the sparkling wines were tasted in six sets of pairs, with each pair pitting one New Zealand wine up against an English wine. This resulted in a tie, with the outstanding wine judged to be the English Wyfold Brut, 2010. The format for the tasting at New Zealand House in London was slightly different. The same 24 wines were arranged on two tables, one for New Zealand and one for England, though without information as to which table belonged to which country. Participants tasted blind through the 24 wines and were then asked to choose which they thought was the better table and which they thought was the outstanding wine. This resulted in a clear victory for England by 22 votes to 7, with Hambledon Classic Cuvée NV being nominated the “Player of the Match”.

Social media calls it correctly

What to make of the two results? Well the different formats and the different profiles of the tasters in the two locations mean that the tasting contests weren’t directly comparable and is sufficient to explain the differing outcomes. Taken together, this is yet further evidence for English Sparkling wine producers that they are indeed making a world-class product. Wyfold Brut, 2010 and Hambledon Classic Cuvée NV happened to be the two top choices, but there was not a single weak entry amongst the 12 English wines. These included Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs, Classic Cuvée, Demi Sec and Rosé styles, indicating the breadth of producers’ ambitions and the potential to meet consumers’ preferences.

New Zealand currently exports ca. 2 million bottles of sparkling wine per annum, which is slightly more than England’s total annual sparkling wine production.  This too should give comfort to marketers and accountants as they look at English Sparkling wine production ramping up in the coming years.