Searcys and English Wines16 June 2022
English Wine Week is a celebration of vineyards and winemakers in the UK, taking place from 18-26 June 2022. A blossoming industry, English sparkling wine has been growing in both popularity and quality over the last few years.
We are thrilled to be working with some of the best producers of English sparkling wine. which we are proud to serve in many of our venues. Ahead of English Wine Week, we take a look at the small growers and international Champagne houses turning their attention in English vineyards, as well as our pick of the bunch and the best food to serve with them.
History of wine in England
Wine grapes have been grown on British soil for over 1,600 years. Though it is debated as to whether they bought vines to the United Kingdom, the Romans wrote about growing wine grapes in Britain in the first century.
Before English wine production had the opportunity to take off, WWI and WWII led to the cease of commercial wine growing. In 1952 the first commercial vineyard was planted since 1875 and over the following decades the number of vineyards increased rapidly.
Due to the cool English climate original growers planted grapes which prioritised fast-ripening over quality. Climate change has led to warmer weather and a revolution, as well as quality focused wine makers and investment, in English sparkling wine.
Current producers and new beginnings
Furleigh Estate Dorset
More often than not, the same grape varieties are used as to produce Champagne – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier all grow well here. Just as with Champagne, the sparkling wines here are made through a lengthy and meticulous process, which is the traditional method taking an average time of 15 months to 2 years to produce a bottle.
Over the last few years, numerous blind tastings with seasoned professionals and novices alike have seen English wines from regions such as Hampshire, Sussex, Dorset and Kent coming out on top of Champagnes made according to the same method. All this work is reflected on the price, the English Sparkling Wines are on par with Champagne.
In December 2015, this rise in popularity led iconic Champagne house Taittinger to announce they were buying a vineyard in Kent, in order to produce an English sparkling wine.
And just this week, Sussex has been awarded a special status that puts one county’s product on a par with that produced in Champagne, Rioja and Tuscany. Sussex’s wine producers have raised a glass to the decision to give them their own official designation, intended to guarantee their quality and geographical provenance.
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) approved the registration of “Sussex” as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) for wine, similar to the French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) and Italian Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC).
Searcys English Sparkling Wines
Searcys English Sparkling Wine – Shop Now
At Searcys we are proud to work with two very impressive English winemakers: Greyfriars and Nyetimber. These vineyards we work with at Searcys all differ in size and production rates, but we think the versatility ensures a well-rounded selection of English sparkling wines in our different venues. To celebrate Searcys 175th anniversary this year, we are delighted to have partnered with Greyfriars to produce our first-ever label English sparkling wine.
Greyfriars and our own label English Sparkling Wine
Our first ever English Sparkling label is a Classic Cuvée Brut, made exclusively for Searcys in collaboration with Greyfriars. The 40-acre vineyard in Surrey has won numerous awards and accolades for their sparkling wines, made with a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier according to traditional method, before being aged in the bottle for 36 months in a specially created chalk cave. You’ll find brioche and citrus notes, perfect as an aperitif or served with seafood.
Greyfriars Vineyard is located on the sunny south-facing chalk slopes of the Hog’s Back at Puttenham, just outside Guildford in Surrey. The 40-acre vineyard was established in 1989 and boasts a state-of-the-art tasting room, winery and a natural chalk underground cellar. Greyfriars produces a range of award-winning sparkling and still wines from exclusively estate-grown grapes. Their wines have been extremely well received and have already won many prizes in international competitions, including the 2021 Wine GB Trophy for the best Sparkling Vintage Classic Cuvée and the English Sparkling Rosé Trophy in the 2019 International Wine Challenge. The vineyard is open to visitors all year round and offers experiences helping in the winery and vineyard, exciting tour and tasting events, an on-site wine bar, and a wine club that provides members with discounted wine and access to exclusive members events.
This year, the new entrant to Searcys’ sparkling wine list is a boutique grower Harrow & Hope. It’s all about the soil and the site for owners Henry and Kaye Laithwaite. Although purchase was subject to all of the usual tests, Henry knew the site had potential as soon as he saw it – the sloping ground with varying levels of chalk and flint provide a perfect situation for vines with the pinots near the top of the hill and chardonnay further down a gentle slope. Grown, picked and expertly blended by the same team on the same site, each glass of Harrow & Hope is a tribute to traditional method viticulture and winemaking, Marlow’s unique characteristics and the spirit of adventure.
English Sparkling Wine food pairings, according to our Drinks Ambassador Bruno Pelletier
We serve a range of English wines across Searcys venues and events spaces, but St Pancras Brasserie and Champagne Bar is where it all begins. Bruno Pelletier shares his favourite English Sparkling wines from the menu, and the best dishes to pair with them.
Searcys English Sparkling Classic Cuvee, Brut, NV
Searcys at St Pancras fish and chips
This delectable English sparkling wine comes from a very chalky part of the UK, on the edge of the Surrey hills. It’s a classic blend of the three traditional “Champagne” varieties, offering generous citrus flavours and a toasty finish.
Harrow and Hope, Blanc de Blancs, Brut, 2017
Portland crab, citrus fruit, brown crab dressing
The crispiness of the 100% chardonnay will complement the crab’s sweetness. The 2017 sparkling wine is generous and soft with beautiful floral notes and brioche flavour.
Greyfriars Vineyards, X Blanc de Noirs, Brut Nature, 2017
Searcys Creedy Carver chicken pie, celeriac purée, tarragon jus
The 2017 1005 Pinot Noir is dry, fruity and clean to balance with the creamy chicken velouté. The nutty flavour of the buttery pastry and the wild mushroom complement very well the quince and ginger notes of the wine.
Nyetimber, Cuvée Chérie, Demi-Sec, Multi Vintage
Eton mess Pavlova
This demi-sec with notes of honey and tangerine will develop a crisp acidity with the sweetness of the fresh strawberry and the baked meringue. The little plus is the usual marriage of the freshness of basil cress and the rose petal with the sweetness of this 38g/l of residual sugar wine.