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The Rugby World Cup final this morning may well be all over by the time you read this and while I certainly don’t normally recommend any wine to be drunk at such an early hour in the UK, it is permissible, I think, to have a glass of fizz for elevenses if your (we have a lot of South Africans in the UK) team wins.
But the match this morning also presents a nice opportunity to compare the wines of these two great sporting nations: England being the original home of rugby but a latecomer to serious commercial winemaking, while the South African wine industry dates back to the first Dutch settlers in the early 17th century, with rugby only arriving almost two centuries later, imported by British colonists.
So firstly, then, to sparkling wine, and clearly England, once never in the same league, is now a serious contender for international trophies. The Ridgeview vineyard in Sussex was one of the early leaders (alongside nearby Nyetimber) and produces classy, elegant sparklers in the traditional method from champagne grapes – chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier – grown on chalky slopes.
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TheRidgeview Bloomsbury NV (£28.99 waitrose.com; £30.00 winebuyers.com)is gorgeously effervescent, bursting with citrus, peach and pear flavours in that distinctive English fashion and is the ideal celebration wine, whatever the occasion.
South Africa’s sparkling is much less well known, but it does produce excellent bottles such as theGraham Beck Brut NV (£10.99 normally £14.99; until 5 November, waitrosecellar.com; £15.99 majestic.com); said to have been served at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration, a chardonnay/pinot noir blend, again made with the traditional method and with punchy, creamy, zesty flavours. A good wine, but a narrow advantage to the English so far…
When it comes to still whites, England, to continue rugby metaphors, has a lot to learn, but its ga
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