Laithwaite’s is top English fizz

An English sparkling wine made by the wife and co-founder of Direct Wines*, the world's largest independent wine merchant, has been voted the best English sparkling wine.

Barbara Laithwaite, wife of Tony Laithwaite, and her friend Cherry Thompson, saw off competition from 78 other English Sparkling wines, three Champagnes and one Californian sparkling wine.

The Laithwaites founded Bordeaux Direct,later renamed Laithwaites and the holding company, Direct Wines, is still family owned and controlled.

The annual blind tasting, called ‘The Judgement of Parsons Green’, was organised by England’s leading English wine expert, Stephen Skelton MW and the 14 judges included seven masters of wine.

Laithwaite’s Berkshire-grown Theale Vineyard Chardonnay 2007 completed the sweep by taking second place.

Barbara Laithwaite, said of the Wyfold Vineyard Sparkling Wine, 2009:We are a small South Oxfordshire vineyard that’s only been going since 2003. This is our proudest moment and it couldn’t have come at a better time – tricky conditions meant there was no vintage in 2012 and who knows what this year will bring. We’ve got the 2010 and 2011 vintages safely in though - and we’ll take the same care as with the 2009, so let’s hope this isn’t the last win for Wyfold. This award proves that our English Sparkling Wine cuts it with both critics and consumers alike – a winegrower’s dream!”

Wyfold Vineyard Sparkling Wine, 2009, is made from the traditional Champagne variety grapes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, grown in Barbara Laithwaite’s vineyard in the Chiltern Hills. The volume of grapes is so small (more than 4,000 vines in one hectare, established in 2003) Wyfold works with Mike Roberts’ team at Ridgeview in Sussex. Ridgeview is one of England’s premier English sparkling wines.

The 2009 is the first wine Barbara has put on general sale and into competition.

English winemaker, author and organiser of the ‘Judgement of Parsons Green’, Skelton says: I set up the tasting in 2011 to be able to judge UK-grown sparkling wines against wines from around the world to show where they stand. The results, three years in a row, show conclusively that the best UK sparklers can beat Champagnes and other quality sparkling wines with no shadow of a doubt. Of course, not all UK sparkling wines are as good as the best, but my hope is that this type of judging and feedback will spur producers on to greater things.

He described the Wyfold wine as: “Complex and multi-layered with a very good balance of sweetness and acidity.”

Sales of English Sparkling Wine continue to rise in the UK and internationally.Laithwaite’s Wine, part of Direct Wines, reported an uplift of 89% on English Sparkling wine sales in 2012 from the previous year. The rise is attributed to the quality and growing reputation of English Sparkling Wine, as well as patriotic events like the Jubilee and Olympics. 

*Direct Wines, with annual sales in excess of £360 million,  has operations in Europe, the US, Hong Kong, Australia, and India.