Global warming is bad, innit.
But it has had one unexpected bonus beyond hotter winters – it’s letting Brits make decent bubbly.
For decades, British wine and fizz have been an easy joke. But as the Earth’s temperatures have begun to consistently rise our climate has started to become ideal for making quality sparkling wines.
Experts have started to rate “English sparklers” as the next generation of champagne-style drinks to rival prosecco and Cava. And UK sparklers are set to make a splash in the drinks industry for decades to come as global warming doesn’t show any signs of being dealt with in any dramatic way, at least not until we’re on the verge of burning up and scrambling for another planet to populate.
“Going back to the 1970s British weather made it hard to ripen the three main grapes for champagne. Now the hours of sunshine has risen and it’s much easier to grow them”
Dr Tony Busalacchi, a climate change scientist at the University of Maryland and qualified wine expert said, “I’m very upbeat and positive about English sparklers. Going back to the 1970s your weather made it hard to consistently ripen the three main grapes used for making champagne: chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. But since the late ’80s the number of hours of sunshine has risen in the UK so now it’s much easier to grow them.”
Specifically it’s Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and Surrey in the south where conditions are most ideal for creating fine British fizz. As well as the heat, the four counties have always had the ideal soil conditions to plant vineyards: the type of chalk found in the white cliffs of Dover is perfect for helping to maintain quality grapes.
The final factor to make British fizz appealing is (surprisingly for the overpriced south) the cost. An acre of land in the town of Champagne costs £400,000. A similar acre in Kent can cost just £13,000.
Along with better conditions the British have started growing our expertise in how to keep a good vineyard. “Many wineries in France and Germany have been run by the same family going back to the 1500s,” Dr Busalacchi added. “That’s a tradition England obviously doesn’t have, but there are many wine experts touring the world who share their expertise with other countries such as Britain. The communication of good wine technique is now much more global.”
English sparkler brands such as Chapel Down, Denbies and Nyetimber are leading the way, and are starting to beat some traditional big boys of bubbly, including Veuve Clicquot and Moët & Chandon, in taste tests and reviews.
Nyetimber’s manufacturers declare it has a ‘vanilla and lemon’ flavour with ‘biscuity notes and apricot’ playing ‘supporting roles’. It’s made at a vineyard in West Chiltington, West Sussex, and its owners have admitted its success is down to the hot summer of 2003 that produced world-renowned grapes. Dr Busalacchi warned British weather is still too unpredictable to be perfect: a late spring frost can still kill the year’s grapes, no matter how world-beating they are.
Our workers are also more expensive to hire than in France, but conditions will continue to improve for at least the next 40 to 50 years as the planet heats.
“There’s a niche to be filled between high-end Cava and premium champagne brands such as Veuve Cliquot and Moët & Chandon,” said Dr Busalacchi. “My sense is that’s where English sparklers will be marketed internationally.”
So, at least you can get pissed on homegrown bubbly while the polar ice caps melt. Cheers.