lympstone manor english wines

English Wine Week: Brilliant British bottles to buy now

17 Jun 2024 | Updated on: 21 Jun 2024 |By Annie Lewis

From effervescent sparklings to bold, fruity reds, here are the best English wines to add to your cellar

While the UK doesn’t boast the balmy temperatures of the traditional wine regions of South Africa, Australia, France and Italy, the climate in the south of England – cool, brisk and (ahem) occasionally damp – is very appealing to the pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier grapes going into the booming English wines market. 

Partially a product of climate change (the climates of Kent, Sussex, Hampshire et al are now similar to that of the Champagne region 20-30 years ago), entrepreneurial minds have been quick to capitalise on the potential of the Garden of England, where fertile soil, optimum wind direction and the aforementioned climate is ideal for harvesting grapes used in sparkling, chardonnay and pinot noir wines. While the method may have been perfected over centuries by family-run wineries in France and Italy, English wines are fast becoming the nation’s favourite tipple, with plantings increasing by 74 per cent over the past five years, and Great Britain now home to 943 vineyards and counting. 

Don’t know your brut from your sec? Get to know the best brands in the business, as well as our favourite bottles to buy for English Wine Week, with Searcys’ head of champagne Martin Dibben’s tips and tricks for picking the right wine for every occasion.

How should English sparkling wine be tasted?

Similar to wine, a light swirl of the glass is encouraged to release the aromas and flavours – give it a gentle sniff to detect the initial flavours, then follow with a small sip, letting the taste linger on your tongue. The flavour can change after resting on your palette so give it a minute before taking your next sip!

What do different flavour profiles and notes mean?

Many kinds of sparkling wine use terms like brut, dry and sec to denote the sweetness of the wine. In champagne, those terms have a very specific meaning, and they range from ‘brut nature’ (the driest) to ‘doux’ (the sweetest). You don’t need to purchase wine specifically from one category or another – just notice what you’re drinking when you’re drinking it, so you can buy what you like (or what pairs well with food) once you’ve figured it out.

How do I pair wine with food?

Champagne and sparkling wine is a favourite among sommeliers as it pairs well with a lot of different cuisines. You might be surprised to hear that champagne pairs perfectly with everything from steak and fried potatoes to duck and fish and chips. The key is differentiating between the different types. When you’re pairing with food, firstly taste the wine and savour its characters. Then taste the dish and return for a further sip of the wine. If the wine has a similar taste as before or even a more interesting flavour you have a match. But if you find you have lost some of the freshness and fruit flavours then move on. Every bottle is different so it is a (very enjoyable) process of elimination.

The best English winemakers

Nyetimber, across the UK

Let’s start with an oldie but a goodie. For more than 35 years, Nyetimber has set the standard for English wine. As the first vineyard in England to plant the most renowned grape varieties – chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier – the brand’s first bottle, Blanc de Blancs vintage 1992, was introduced to the market in 1996. Helmed by lifelong wine enthusiast Eric Heerema, there have been many firsts in its pioneering story, from Nyetimber’s first rosé in 2007 to being the first English sparkling wine producer to produce a demi sec-style in 2012. 

Across 11 vineyards, spanning West Sussex to Kent, Nyetimber’s terroir of greensand and chalk soils allows its vines to thrive, and the climate in the south of England is ideal for the slow ripening of its grapes. Its artisanal approach to harvest means the team handpicks grapes row by row into small 15kg bins to prevent the grapes from being crushed. The result? Flavours rarely found outside France which have seen its wines picked up by Annabel's, The Savoy, The Ivy, Ritz Carlton, The Edition and more. Plus, Nyetimber has been appointed the official sparkling wine of Team GB for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, creating a limited-edition Classic Cuvee Multi-Vintage bottle to celebrate the occasion. Boasting a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier, we’d recommend bagging a bottle now before it’s too late. 

Nyetimber Limited-Edition Team GB Classic Cuvée

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Lympstone Manor, Devon

You probably recognise Lympstone Manor for its reputation as one of Devon’s most luxurious boltholes – and you’re not wrong. But operating harmoniously alongside the five-star hotel is a working English vineyard from Exeter-born chef Michael Caines MBE, who reimagined the Grade II-listed Georgian manor house into a luxury country house hotel on the foreshore of the tranquil Exe Estuary in 2017. A year later, the Lympstone Manor Vineyard was born to produce high-quality English sparkling wines and realise Caines’ life-long dream of running his own winery. 

Utilising the noble champagne varieties of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier, and created in partnership with Devon’s Lyme Bay Winery, four wines have been produced from the estate: a 2020 Triassic Pinot Noir, launched in 2022, a Classic Cuvée and an Isabeau Rosé, both launched in 2023. A chardonnay named Edwards – a tribute to Lympstone Manor’s long-standing vineyard manager, Steve Edwards, who has worked alongside Caines for over 30 years – launched in April 2024 and marks the estate’s first white wine. But if you want to sample effervescent English sparkling at its finest, opt for the Classic Cuvée: a blend of pinot noir, pinot meunier, and chardonnay (the latter predominantly aged in new and used French oak barriques for nine months prior to blending) to create a smooth champagne-style taste. 

Lympstone Manor Estate Classic Cuvée

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Ridgeview, East Sussex

With more than 25 years of winemaking expertise under its belt, this third-generation family-run business is a quintessential taste of English wine making, and was founded by husband-and-wife team Mike and Chris Roberts in 1995. Don’t want to take our word for it? Ridgeview has a firm royal stamp of approval, with the late Queen Elizabeth II enjoying the Blanc de Blancs 2004 at her 80th birthday banquet in 2006. 12 years later, the brand was finally recognised as Winemaker of the Year at the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) and has received numerous accolades since. It was the first brand in the UK to export its wines to Norway, Finland and Japan, with its ever-popular core selection of sparkling wines famous the world over. 

Choose from the Bloomsbury – first released in 2002 with a light golden colour and citrus fruit aromas (this wine was also served at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2009) – the Fitzrovia Rosé, offering a delicate salmon colour with an abundance of fine bubbles (served to Barack Obama at a state banquet at Buckingham Palace) and, finally, our personal favourite: Cavendish. A bolder fizz made with pinot and chardonnay grapes to create tasting notes of red fruits, berries, almonds and toast. 

Searcys, across the UK


The UK’s oldest British caterer, Searcys is the brainchild of John Searcy, who founded the company in 1847. A creative and culinary force of nature, Searcy began his illustrious career as the confectioner for the Duke of Northumberland, before taking his talents to London to establish the capital’s go-to events company. In residence at unique historical venues across the UK, including The Pump Room at the Roman Baths, The Gherkin, and St Pancras International, Searcys is famous for its extensive champagne and wine lists. 

It seemed fitting, then, for Searcys to launch its own label in 2022. Coinciding with the brand’s 175th anniversary, the release saw Searcys collaborate with English winemakers Greyfriars and Nyetimber, and its second sparkling will hit the shelves in June 2024 – but it’s been a long time coming. The grapes used in the New Vintage were harvested in 2016, bottled in July 2017, and aged on lees for more than six years to create an elegant and complex sparkling wine that boasts layers of apple, citrus fruit flavours and toasty aromas. Wonderfully soft and dry, the wine serves as a beautiful aperitif but equally pairs well with lighter seafood dishes, and is a must-have in any decadent summer picnic hamper. 

New Vintage Searcys English Sparkling Wine

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Chapel Down, Kent

Planted in the Garden of England, Chapel Down’s vineyards across Kent, Sussex and Essex yield top quality grapes to produce the finest wines. Both the sparkling and still wines are made using the latest viticulture techniques, resulting in elegant English wines with balanced acidity and rich fruity characters. Brut, for example, is one of the market’s best-selling English sparkling wines. It is crisp and fresh, blending chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot meunier and pinot blanc to create aromas of red apple, lemongrass with hints of strawberry and, of course, fine persistent bubbles. 

Venture deeper into Chapel Downs’ portfolio to discover how the aforementioned viticulture techniques have been put to good use to create a chardonnay akin to those found in Burgundy: Kit’s Coty Chardonnay. This multi-award-winning wine is produced with the finest chardonnay parcels from the 100-acre Kit's Coty vineyard in the north downs of Kent, where grapes are bunch pressed before undergoing wild fermentation in old oak barrels. A rich and opulent white wine with complex aromas of white peach, apple, and apricot, enjoy notes of roasted hazelnuts and buttery hints for that signature chardonnay taste. 

Chapel Down Kit’s Coty Chardonnay

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Hattingley Valley, Hampshire

The inspiration for Hattingley Valley – the award-winning, family-owned English wine producer – was sparked by a radio programme. After Simon Robinson listened to a snippet on the embryonic English sparkling wine scene in 2000, he embarked on a mission to find the best plot to plant his vines and, following soil analysis, a 25-acre, south-sloping site on flinty clay and chalk soil was selected in Hampshire – and the Hattingley Valley vineyard was finally born in 2008. 

Before planting Hattingley’s vines, Robinson commissioned surveys into the flora and fauna on the farm, which led to the discovery of the Silver-Washed Fritillary Butterfly; now visually represented on each bottle. A mix of specialist growers and harvesters, good climate and excellent soil quality has resulted in Hattingley Valley becoming one England’s most successful wine producers, with an eco-friendly vineyard featuring 10 hectares of vines, a state-of-the-art winery, and a wine analysis laboratory. While the Classic Reserve is the brand’s bestseller – it’s left on the lees for four years to create tasting notes of zesty citrus and sweet brioche – don’t overlook the Still Pinot Noir, made with 100 per cent of the eponymous grape variety to offer a subtle smoky note that pairs well with game and fish dishes. Chin chin! 

Hattingley Valley Still Pinot Noir

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