We have got to get one thing clear- British Wine (generally fortified like Sherry and very cheap), is an entirely different product to English and Welsh wine.
British Wine is made from imported grape concentrate. As this has unfortunately already taken the all encompassing ‘British’ title, the exciting world of Quality English and Welsh dry wines are classified as English Wines.
The Welsh very kindly understand the predicament; however as a nation I do believe we should be given back this title of British Wines to move the industry even further forward as an export product.
So… English wine.
Generally perceived as a relatively new concept, vineyards have in fact been planted since Roman times when wine was generally made by monks!
Since the 1950′s though, vineyards have been steadily increasing in size and hundreds of smaller, boutique vineyards and wineries are now producing superb wines after years of experimentation and refinement of techniques and styles.
There are over 300 separate vineyards now, but they mainly send their grapes to larger wineries to be made into wine (to lower costs). However, these are still branded and sold under the vineyards own name from their own grapes.
The UK, being very ‘north’ geographically in wine terms, has been a challenge to winemakers. This is because the soil is too good (vines prefer poor soil), all the wind and rain we get and the UK also has a variable climate. Winemakers have found it hard to grow International grape varieties successfully in the past.
However, due to global warming and the saviour of the Gulf Stream, warmer temperatures now allow these well-known grape varieties (such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) to be grown as well as Regional varieties which are blended magnificently with them.
These Regional varieties really do give English wines a true reflection of the country they are from- floral and aromatic whites and brambly, blackberry flavoured reds. Oozing English summer days and autumn walks (and Welsh of course!).
It is interesting to note, that recently in some blind wine tastings, many people (and professionals alike) have chosen English reds over French in taste and style?!
The true gem currently though is English Sparkling wines. The Champagne area of France has poor, chalky soil (remember the poorer the soil, the better the vines as this makes them have to grow far down into the soil and stone to extract water and nutrients).
This same soil style is evident in many parts of the South of England, particularly concentrated in Kent (think white cliffs of Dover chalk!), East and West Sussex, Surrey and Cornwall. Plantings of the three Champagne grapes, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, are all increasing.
Award winning bottle-fermented sparkling wines (like the Champagne process), are being produced in these areas and sell at high prices, matching some of those in Champagne itself!
English wines will probably continue to be consumed on home turf for the foreseeable future as the outside world can’t really get their head around them quite yet. But, as more awards continue to be won, more wine is produced at a lower cost (but not reducing quality) and the more we advocate it ourselves, I strongly believe there is a massive future for the English wine industry!
So, get out there and get tasting these fabulous wines on offer! Also visit the vineyards themselves as many are open as tourist attractions and are a superb day out with friends or family.
Discover English wines- bring on the wine world you can hear them shout!
|NOTE: If your supermarket doesn’t stock English wines, or doesn’t stock a reasonable selection of them, please complain! A lot do now, however, but all of them should. Independent merchants, online retailers and buying direct from the vineyards were the original and only way to buy English wines but we must have a broad range of different wines from different countries in all of our supermarkets and wine shops, so we can make our own decision based upon informed choice.|
- East Sussex
- West Sussex
- Floral, crisp and aromatic whites
- Brambly, dry and soft fruity reds
- Champagne style sparkling wines
- Pinot Noir (reds)
- Seyval Blanc
- Angevine 7672 (indigenous to the UK)
- Pinot Meunier – these latter three are used for the sparkling wines blends
- Denbies ‘Greenfields’ Sparkling wine (Award winning)
- Camel Valley Sparkling Brut rosé (%%%non-vintage%%%)
- Chapel Down Pinot Noir
- Three Choirs Pinot Noir
- Nyetimber’s Blancs de Blancs
- Ridgeview sparkling wines, especially their Merret Grosvenor ’06
Note, for sparkling wines, the quality of vintages does vary quite considerably year on year, due to the variable climate. So to start with try the %%%non-vintage%%% sparklers as these are a blend of different years and are of consistent quality. The benchmark taste of the product.