Thursday, 2 August 2012

English producers need to stop aping Champagne

Sam Lindo, chief winemaker of Camel Valley in Cornwall, has spoken out about English producers’ approach to sparkling wine, claiming too many are trying to ape Champagne. “A lot of English sparkling wine producers are trying to make Champagne by using the same grapes and the same winemaking methods. We should be doing something different,” Lindo told

“I think we are the only English sparkling wine producer that makes fizz with a flavour profile you wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else in the world,” he added. While he uses both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in his sparklers, Lindo also gives prominence to Seyval Blanc, using around 60% in the estate’s flagship Brut. “We should be using grapes best suited to our cool climate, that’s why I work with Seyval Blanc, Bacchus, Reichensteiner, Rondo and Dornfelder,” Lindo said.

Rather than trying to make rich, full-bodied sparklers, Lindo is deliberately aiming for a subtle flavour profile. “Australian wine pioneer Len Evans once said: ‘taste is best enjoyed at the lowest possible level of perception’, and I’m a big believer in that. Big wines tire very quickly – it’s the subtle wines that hold your interest. I want our wines to display an underripe character that reflects their English roots.

“I’m looking for flavours of fruits commonly grown in England: green apple, gooseberry and elderflower in the whites, and strawberry, raspberry and red apple in the rosé,” he said. Lindo, who sells 40% of his wine at the cellar door, said he doesn’t know from year to year what percentage of still wine Camel Valley will make until harvest time. “If we can’t make sparkling wine from the grapes, then we’ll make still wine,” he said.

As for the 2012 vintage, Lindo said that Cornwall had escaped a lot of the heavy rains that have plagued the rest of the country in recent months. “We’ve been really grateful for this recent sunny spell, but it’s impossible to predict the quality of a vintage until harvest time,” he said. 


  1. I couldn't agree more, well said.

  2. There is no harm in having a target to aim at and for English Sparkling Wine producers, the target is the acknowldeged leader in the sparkling wine world - Champagne. The best UK producers, which certainly includes Camel Valley, have already shown that they can beat Champagne for quality and price and this will not stop. Champagne is the reference point, but not the stopping point.

  3. Thanks for commenting guys - I think Sam has an interesting point. While of course Champagne remains the yardstick for quality sparkling wine, English sparkling is improving year-on-year to the point where it can now stand shoulder to shoulder with Champagne in terms of quality. We'll never be able to compete on volume, so now what we need to do is hone our individuality, focus on terroir and make sparklers that are unmistakably English. Exciting times for English wine!

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