Spot the difference: Laithwaites Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Cuvée Speciale Champagne 2004 -v- South Ridge Cuvée Merret 2008 English Sparkling wine

The best thing about wine tasting is comparing and contrasting styles and vintages. Not something most of us do when drinking socially, as much as anything because we only have one bottle on the go at once!

On Friday, a couple of friends indulged me on a spot (indeed taste) the difference challenge – Champagne versus English Sparkling wine. The line up? Two award winning sparkling wines exclusive to Laithwaites: Laithwaites Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Cuvée Speciale Champagne 2004 and 2008 English Sparkler South Ridge Cuvée Merret.

I must admit, one is a Champagne Charlotte. Correctly identifying the Champagne (as did her partner) “because it tastes like Champagne,” years of experience stood her in good stead! A little lawyerly probing produced the following further and better particulars - “because of the persistence of bead and biscuity finish.”

The four of us agreed that the English sparkling wine had higher acidity, which I really liked about it – part of its englishness, plus it gave it lovely precision. For the others, it was a touch too high; they had a clear preference for the Champagne.

Here are my notes on the wines:

South Ridge Cuvée Merret 2008 English Sparkling wine

Made by leading English fizz producer Ridgeview, a fresh, finely tuned, inviting nose shows hedgerow, citrus and almond. In the mouth it’s a zingy, citrus-driven, lemony fizz with buttered apples, short as short (snappy) shortcake and tight mineral acidity on a well-focused, mouthwatering finish with a savoury hint of oyster sauce. Not as full or long as the Champagne, but lovely verve and, at £19.00, it’s a tenner less. Classy and, I reckon, those savoury notes will open up if you stashed it away for a year or two.

Laithwaites Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Cuvée Speciale Champagne 2004

Made by Union Avize from Grand Cru grapes and aged for four and a half years on lees, this is a broader style, quite forward and soft with bruised apple, honey/nougat and toast; drinking really well now. A biscuity, persistent mousse with a hint of cognac makes for a fuller, more savoury finish. £29.99



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