Wimbledon 2019: the best English sparkling wines to go with strawberries and cream
Enjoy the best of British from Henman Hill will these five great grapes
With Wimbledon now firmly underway, it's time to head to the shops for some strawberries and cream – and maybe a bottle or two of top-notch English sparkling wine.
The origins of the strawberries and cream tradition are a bit hazy, but many sources suggest it was a happy accident.
British strawberries are at their seasonal peak in early to mid-July, the same time as Wimbledon.
"When Wimbledon first made its debut in 1877, strawberries were resolutely on-trend with Victorian audiences (though strawberries and cream have been enjoyed as a pairing since the Tudor era)," says Sipsmith London.
Strawberries were once considered a luxury, but while refridgeration and globalised food production have made it possible to eat strawberries all year round, the Wimbledon tradition has persisted. According to the Wimbledon website, 166,055 portions of strawberries and cream were served throughout the 2018 event.
One thing that has changed over the years is the breadth and quality of English sparkling wine, which is now regarded as more than a match for Champagne. Here are five great bottles of England's finest to take with you to Henman Hill.
Digby Fine English Non Vintage Brut
Digby Fine English blends grapes grown in the chalky soil of Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and Dorset with award-winning results. "While it's yet to register £1m in turnover, the small business has punched above its weight in some regards. In 2014, its 2009 vintage was crowned best sparkling wine in England by a judging panel led by renowned wine critic, Tom Stevenson," The Daily Telegraph says.
Ridgeview's Blanc de Noir Brut 2014
Located in East Sussex, this wine is created only from black grapes. This white, sparkling wine packs aromas of red fruit and rich toastiness from 48 months in the cellar. "Production is exclusively sparkling — currently about 130 thousand bottles of Brut, Blanc de Noirs, and Rosé — and the wines have won awards in international sparkling competitions and have been served to heads of state including, of course, Her Majesty the Queen," says Terroir Review.
Rathfinny Wine 2014 Blanc de Blancs
Just south of the Sussex village Alfriston, this wine is bubbly with fruity tastes. The apricot sweetness gives a sweet note to the palate, as the product is made with the estate's Chardonnay grapes. John Mobbs, founder of GreatBritishWine.com, says, "I love the poise and confidence, it’s a hugely distinctive wine, yet it retains a beautiful air of elegance."
Leckford Estate brut 2014
This wine blends the traditions of chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier grapes to achieve a soft fruit flavour. Along with toasty hints of hazelnuts, the Hampshire wine is sweet and bubbly. Mobbs notes that "many taste this and finding it an appealing alternative to supermarket Champagne. On that basis, this wine is doing exactly what it needs to as an own-label offering.
Floreat Sparkling Botanic Wine
This wine is a pioneer in English sparkling botanic wine. "Floreat is uniquely crafted with a special blend of high-quality botanicals that have been thoughtfully handpicked by Anne-Marie for their therapeutic advantages as much as for their flavour. Bridging the worlds of wine and wellness, Floreat contains botanicals with benefits that range from anti-oxidants to cell regeneration for hair, nails and skin, to stress relief," writes Journal Des Palaces.
Ambriel Classic Cuvee
Southern England has become home to some exceptional méthode champenoise wines, with award-winning Ambriel amongst the very best. The Week wine editor Bruce Palling found it exceptionally elegant, with a powerful backbone of minerality with the usual apple flavours that tend to differentiate English sparkling wines from traditional Champagne. Drink this and you will understand why English sparkling wine deserves to be taken seriously.
£312 for a case of 12, The Week Wines