English fizz ‘more energetic’ than Champagne

We have long been supporters of English Fizz and feature fine examples in many of our tasting events as well as drinking it!

Although we don't yet feature any wines produced by Digby (we will sample some shortly!), we found this recent article from Drinks Business more that just a bit interesting.

If you haven't tried English Sparkling Wine then you are missing out on great wines that rival, and sometimes surpass Champagne!

Trevor Clough, co-founder and CEO of Digby Fine English, said: “English sparkling wine very much has its own taste and identity. It has an energy and vivacity that you don’t always find in Champagne.

“England is a touch cooler and the impact of the chalk soil can really be felt in the wines. Each of the different key regions: Kent, Sussex and Hampshire bring different things to the table – Kent brings warmth, Sussex richness and Hampshire structure to the blend. I think blending from all three creates a sparkling wine that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

While Clough describes the 2014 vintage as “bountiful and beautiful”, he’s also optimistic about the quality of 2015 due to a sunny summer and great weather during flowering.

Digby’s Trevor Clough (left) and Jason Humphries

Rather than playing the volume game and driving down prices, Clough believes it’s imperative that English sparkling wine producers work together to collectively promote the quality of the wines.

“We’ve got the weather, soil and terroir to produce amazing wines. We need to take English sparkling wine around the world and in order to do so, we need to stick to our guns on quality.

“It’s a very collegiate atmosphere here, everyone has been very welcoming of us. We need to grow the industry together and be smart about it. I think a collective name for English sparkling wine is more of a risk than anything – it risks turning it into a commodity, but retailers might think it’s a good idea.

“The next big thing is a movement towards sub-regions in England – I think the proposed Sussex “PDO” is a great idea,” he added.

Launched in 2013 with the 2009 vintage, Digby Fine English is the first négociant-style English sparkling wine brand that owns neither a winery nor vineyard land.

At the moment there are three wines in the Digby portfolio: a vintage brut, a vintage rosé and non-vintage rosé Leander Pink, in addition to Harvey Nichols’ own-label English fizz made in collaboration with Digby, which, according to Clough, signals a maturing of the English sparkling wine market.

All of the wines are made at Wiston Estate by Dermot Sugrue, who Clough describes as a “mad genius artist”. Just 10,000 bottles of Dibgy were made in 2009 but the ultimate goal is to produce 10,000 cases across the range – both a blanc de blancs and a blancs de noirs are in the pipeline for future release.

“We want to disrupt things and shake the cage a bit. We’re going after 30-40 year old consumers who are well travelled and looking for something different. Our next move is into export markets – we’d love to have a presence in Japan. Our style is dry and reductive, which suits sushi.

“We started with London – it’s a good time due to the trend for eating and drinking local but there’s a lot of competition in the on-trade as established brands can throw cash around and win listings that way,” Clough admitted.

He believes we’ll see more négociant style players entering the English sparkling wine market due to the cost savings the model allows for, freeing up cash to invest in marketing and promotion.

“We’re getting quite close to making a profit and have been working hard to win listings at new restaurants and bars. I see Digby as more of an experience than a product and the on-trade is the best way to communicate this message,” Clough told db.

“British luxury brands are appreciated around the world in all spheres, from engineering and design to fashion as they combine form and function and are beautifully designed and elegantly executed.

“We want to be part of that conversation so our foils have a purple lining and the neck has a hound’s tooth motif,” he added.

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