English vineyards are specialising increasingly in sparkling wines. They have attracted considerable attention, winning gold medals against reputable French competition over the past decade or so, with many bottles going for prices on a par with the top French champagnes. Agricultural land values — at £10,000-£20,000 per hectare, are about 1 per cent or less than those in France — have sprouted upwards as a result.
French champagne house Taittinger has taken note and bought land in southern England to produce its own version of the local fizz, with plans to sell its wine in the UK. French expertise also guides the progress at Hampshire-based sparkling wine makers Hambledon and Exton Park.
Despite the arrival of such a leading producer, the English sparkling wine industry still largely comprises family businesses. Some of the newest ones are supported by one or two wealthy investors, drawn by the potential for English sparkling wines.