Dispelling the myth of English wine

No longer should we look at our homegrown wines as the ugly sister to our European neighbours and the New World – we have excellence on our doorstep…

There are now around 400 English vineyards producing around 2m bottles per year

Why should I buy English wine?
Shouldn’t the question be, “Why don’t I buy English wine?” For many years we, as a nation, have been importing cheap food and wine from around the world with little or no knowledge of its quality, methods of production or effect its purchase will have on our economy.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a blind consensus that imported wine is better than that produced in the United Kingdom. This just isn’t true. The climate in the south of England has been compared to that of Germany, but in truth, in recent years it is more in keeping with that of the Champagne region in France, and that, apparently, produces some quite good wines.

Today, English wine is competing at the highest level in wine competitions around the world, but we simply do not produce the same volume as other wine producing countries. Fortunately that is now changing with more vines being planted and more producers springing up all the time. By buying English wine you are investing in the growth of an industry and the British economy. In return you have the opportunity to taste and savour unique English wines, grown in English vineyards and made in English wineries. What could be finer?

Which English wine should I choose?
One of the biggest questions asked is which English wine should I buy? Well, you can’t go far wrong if you buy a medal- winning wine, so be sure to look out for the label on the bottle.

Why don’t the major supermarkets stock English wine?
The major supermarkets do actually stock some English wines if you look hard enough or ask a member of staff to point you in the right direction. These will generally be from the bigger vineyards that can supply on a national level. However, due to the smaller volumes produced in this country there just isn’t enough to keep the shelves continually stocked. It’s still very much a boutique industry in the UK and as such it is left to the wineries and vineyards to promote and sell their own wares through their own shops, farmers’ markets and online. Rest assured it is nothing to do with the quality of the wine.

What does English wine taste like?
It tastes like English wine. Due to our climate, there are only certain vines that grow and thrive in this country and, without going into detail, there are several EU recommended varieties and others evolving all the time. The taste of the wine is dependent on a number of factors including vine variety, soil, weather conditions over the course of the growing season and yeast used in the fermentation process. Different permutations of the above, and many other conditions, lead to an infinite number of possible taste outcomes. The English wine you choose will have a taste which is all its own.

What’s the difference between English wine and British wine?
A smack in the mouth from an English wine producer? Only kidding; as a rule they’re a very friendly bunch, but there is such a lack of knowledge on this subject it has many within the industry frustrated. Put simply, British wine is generally fermented from imported grape juice and as such not entirely a ‘British’ product. English wine is the real deal, the truly British product. English wine is made from grapes grown in English vineyards and produced in English wineries. This generally includes those wines produced in Wales.

Whites: Wide variety, but traditional English whites have floral bouquets and high acidity – very refreshing!

Reds: Once thought impossible – but it is and they vary from light, thru mellow and even full-bodied

Sparkling –The great success story: Similar soils to champagne and edgier climate mean truly great English sparkling wines – as evidenced in blind- tasting international competitions where some English sparkling wines now beat the best of Champagnes.

English Sparkling Wine
English sparkling wine is gaining world renown. Chalky limestone terroirs and a climate akin to that of Champagne a century ago is producing superior quality sparkling wines that are winning top honours on the world stage.

You will find the majority of English sparkling wines are made in the same way as Champagne, using the méthode traditionnelle. This involves a secondary bottle fermentation that imparts the tiny bubbles, character and aromas synonymous with quality sparkling wines. There are several cheaper methods of producing sparkling wines, but as you’d expect the final product is usually inferior.

In recent years there has been much discussion on the naming of English sparkling wine. The French have Champagne, the Spanish Cava and the Italians Prosecco. Two front runners have emerged, Britagne (pronounced ‘britannia’) and Merret in honour of the English scientist Dr Christopher Merret who has some claim to having helped invent champagne. Whatever is decided, one thing is for sure, it will still be English sparkling wine and it will still be delicious.

English White Wine
English white wine tends to have green fruit characteristics, with floral bouquets and crisp zesty flavours. Due to the English climate cooler white grape varieties, many of which have German origins, provide the best results such as Bacchus, Ortega, Seyval Blanc, Pinot Gris and Reichensteiner.

Whilst every grape and hence wine has its own characteristics, it is difficult to pigeonhole or compare English white wine to its continental cousins. If we were, however, to draw comparisons, then the English wines produced from Bacchus grapes do have similarities to Sauvignon Blancs from cooler climates.

Traditionally playing second fiddle to English sparkling wine, English white wines are now stepping out of the shadows and making a name for themselves on the world stage.

English Rosé Wine
Rosé wine is all the rage, providing a combination of light reds and refreshing whites. English rosé wines are no exception and offer far more than you might expect in terms of depth and character.

With strawberry and raspberry aromas and red berry flavours they seem to epitomise the traditional English garden party, but in a glass. Popular grape varieties include Pinot Noir, Dornfelder and Reichensteiner that produce diverse and interesting wines that should not be underestimated.

Rosé wines are no longer seen as a fad and English rosé wines are no exception.

English Red Wine
English red wine to some is an oxymoron, but we beg to differ. Due to the English climate, you won’t find hugely full-bodied wines. You will, however, find soft, subtle wines with delicate spicy aromas and full fruit flavours.

Pinot Noir tends to be leading the way, but you’ll also find English reds from other grape varieties including Rondo and Regent.

Whatever you’ve heard, it is possible to make good red wine in England. Visit www.greatenglishwines.co.uk for more information.

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