The growth of the English sparkling wine industry over the past 10 years has been significant. Established estates like Nyetimber and Gusbourne continue to increase plantings and production, and overseas producers like Champagne Taittinger and South Africa’s Graham Beck have been investing in English vineyards. But there have been a remarkable number of start-up wine estates too. More than 500 commercial vineyards operate today and the area under vine has increased by 160% in a decade.
In rural Berkshire, one of the newest kids on the block is All Angels, who recently released their first pair of sparkling wines, from the 2014 vintage. The family-run vineyard was planted in 2010, although on land that has been farmed for over 300 years. The wines take their name from the neighbouring ‘St Michael and All Angels’ 12th-century church. Winemaker is Emma Rice, Director and Head Winemaker of the established Hattingley Valley.
Just over three hectares of vines are planted on All Angels’ well-draining south facing slopes consisting of shallow, sandy loam over washed gravel and sand. They also report “a good deposit of flint,” in the subsoil. All three of Champagne’s main grapes have been planted, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, as well as Pinot Gris and Rondo. Rondo is a dark skinned variety that ripens early, which I presume gives some insurance against early frosts or autumn rains in the English climate, and makes up 60% of the blend in the 2014 Rosé cuvée. Grapes are hand-harvested, and each variety is vinified separately in stainless steel tanks, though a small proportion is made in neutral oak barrels.
It’s a small operation with limited distribution for now, but it’s genuinely exciting to taste the first releases from a quality estate.