Now it is not often I write about wines from outside of Portugal in this column, but the well-timed placement of this (sort of) English sparkling wine at Apolónia, hot on the heels of Boris’s victory and just in time for Christmas, got my attention.
English sparkling wine, over the last decade or so, has gained serious recognition, regularly beating some of the top Champagnes in blind tastings. This one, however, is not totally English as it is produced by winemakers from the Champagne house of Vranken Pommery, one of the first French producers to start production of English bubbles.
There is talk of concerns over the effects of global warming on the future on the vineyards of the Champagne region and, given the importance of the UK market, it is no surprise that Pommery and others such as Taittinger are planting vineyards in old blighty.
Louis Pommery Brut England is the first of these French-owned English bubbles to reach the market. They have planted vines in Hampshire but, as they still need to wait another seven or eight years for the grapes to be up to scratch, they have joined forces with Hattingley Valley Reserve Wines, using this producer’s facilities to produce their own wine from grapes sourced from Hampshire, Essex and Sussex.
The wine is a typical Champagne blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, pale lemon in colour with faint hints of brioche and fresh notes of peaches and citrus. The bubble is extremely fine with a light texture in the mouth and a lovely clean finish.
But the question has to be, is it worth the price tag of €39.95? Not that Apolónia are overcharging as the price in the UK is around £40, making it more expensive than most mainstream Champagnes and a great deal more than some of the better-quality Portuguese natural sparkling wines that can easily match the quality.
However, if you are a Brit living here in the Algarve and should you be entertaining guests from Portugal (or anywhere else in Europe and especially France) over Christmas, it could be interesting to serve this wine – just don’t mention the B word.