Above: Nyetimber Classic Cuvee and rosé at Fortnum & Mason in London - ANDREW HARPER

The high quality of English sparkling wines comes as something of a shock to most people. England seems too far north, too cool and too rainy, doesn’t it? And it doesn’t have much history as a wine-growing country. True, vineyards date back at least as far as the eighth century, and the warm period between the 12th and 14th centuries produced some English wines of real quality, if contemporaneous reports are to be believed. But the 14th century brought the Little Ice Age and the Black Death, and the end of English wine along with them.

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