The Battle of New Orleans didn't work out well for the British, but that bit of history isn't stopping the British wine industry from trying to find a place among the French and American sparkling wines in New Orleans.
A handful of British bubblies are available at New Orleans restaurants and stores. Spirit Wine (3500 Magazine St., 504-309-8744; www.spirit-wine.com) sells a Nyetimber bottling. The Wine Seller (5000 Prytania St., 504-899-6000; www.facebook.com/winesellernola) has the Gusbourne Brut Reserve. Pearl Wine Co. (3700 Orleans Ave., Suite 1C, 504-483-6314; www.pearlwineco.com) sells one from Bolney Estate. Grande Krewe Fine Wine & Spirits (2305 Decatur St., 504-309-8309; www.grandekrewe.com) has Hattingley Valley Rose and Ridgeview Bloomsbury. Prices range from $45 to $66 per bottle.
Crystal Hinds, owner of French Quarter Champagne bar Effervescence (1036 N. Rampart St., 504-509-7644; www.nolabubbles.com) was excited to add British bottles to her list. "I was begging distributors for more English sparklers ever since I opened last year," she says.
The bar offers a tasting flight called The British Are Coming, and it includes 2013 Gusbourne Brut, 2014 Camel Valley Brut Rose and 2014 Ridgeview Bloomsbury Brut. Three half-glasses cost $30, and the full-glass flight is $60.
"We sell more flights initially as people are skeptical to spend around the same price as they would on Champagne for something they are unfamiliar with tastewise," Hinds says.
At Grand Krewe, co-owner Bob Heaps sees similar skepticism.
"The prices are a little crazy, yet once someone tastes it, it's as wonderful as Champagne," he says.
Charles Simpson spent 16 years making wine at Domaine de Sainte Rose in southern France. In 2014, he and wife Rose (who is related to Scottish whiskey maker William Grant) established the 90-acre Simpsons Wine Estate (www.simpsonswine.com) in Barham, Kent, where they make sparkling wine in the traditional French method.
"We would like to say that we are on the 'cutting edge' whereas our predecessors were on the 'bleeding edge,'" Simpson says. "We owe a debt of gratitude to the early pioneers like Nyetimber, Ridgeview, Chapel Down and Camel Valley. They discovered and proved to the world what was possible in England."
Simpson says finding the right location for his estate was key. The Simpsons looked for chalk soils, south-facing slopes with good drainage, trees for wind protection and abundant sunshine. Several grapes used in the Champagne region grow well in Britain, and many winemakers believe Britain will improve as a grape-growing region as climate change makes it warmer.
Simpson also credits the arrival of noted French Champagne makers in Britain for helping to improve the nation's winemaking profile. British sparkling wines also have won medals in international competitions in recent years.
The Simpsons harvested their British estate's first fruit in 2016. The first sparkling wine release will be a rose made from pinot noir grapes. In spring 2019, they will release a classic cuvee blend of chardonnay and pinot noir, and in late 2019, they will release a blanc de noir made from pinot noir.
"Our U.S. agent for our French property is a New Orleans resident and is keen to represent our English brand," Simpson says. "It is our intention to launch these sparkling wines in spring [or] summer 2019."