As we look to the lighter evenings and with a bit of luck, nicer weather, it might be time to start thinking about getting the bubbles out?!
As Brits, we are more famous for our Gin and Whisky offerings, but our reputation for winemaking is growing, big time. Wines have been made in Britain since the Roman occupation centuries ago- but far more recently we have witnessed a serious revival.
The experimental vineyards planted in the 60’s and 70’s have now grown into some 500 odd vineyards across England and Wales.
I know global warming is not exactly a good thing, but in the case of English viticulture, since the turn of the century, we have seen ripeness and sugar levels increase in grapes due to warmer growing conditions.
The UK is now a premium destination for award winning, quality wine. In particular, sparkling wines.
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir make up for almost 50% of production in England, which, of course, are the main culprits, blended together (or not) and bottle fermented to make the famous wines of Champagne.
Although the weather is warming up, we are still a cool climate, so it makes sense to use mostly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as early ripening grapes are best suited to such conditions.
Are we really any good?
I think, in short, yes. As touched upon, significant climate change has made the cultivation of grapes much more successful.
Historically, producers would add considerable amounts of sugar to grape must in order to balance the acidity and raise potential alcohol levels, whereas now this is no longer a necessity.
Pioneering vineyards such as Nyetimber and RidgeView both found in West Sussex, took a step away from the indigenous varietals and planted the Champagne varieties. The quality of these wines and the success that they have found on national and international platforms have proven that we really can produce premium, high end sparkling wines here in the UK- that can sell for high prices!
Many of the winemakers at the helm and behind the labels have vast experience from overseas, bringing further credence to the quality of our plonk.
Furthermore, let’s not forget that the limestone chalky soil found in Kent, Sussex & Surrey, are the same as the famous soils of Champagne!
English Wine Regions
Wine is produced all over the UK, but there are really three main regions to watch out for. Kent, Sussex and Hampshire.
Sussex enjoys the most sunshine of all the English counties, so planting here is logical. Bacccus, a local aromatic grape variety, is widely planted here and makes for a pleasant, clean, fresh style of table wine. However, Sussex, as with the UK, is far more synonymous with its plantings of the more popular Champagne varieties.
Kent, to the east of Sussex tends to produce a little more mineral style of wine. Possibly better known for the white cliffs of Dover, Kent has been home to a lot of English agriculture for years!
Hampshire also boasts chalky soils and is home to Pommery’s partnership with Hattingley Estate. Hampshire is also home to the largest vineyard in the UK, Denbies Vineyard.
I was speaking to a representative of the London Wine Fair (LWF) a few days ago, she told me that English fizz is in the top five categories that people are looking out for at this years show. As thousands of trade professionals descend on London’s Olympia to sample 10,000 odd wines, it’s nice to know that now we are being held in such high regard.
To tie in with English wine week, the LWF and to just make a bit of noise of our own, we are celebrating English sparkling wine all through the month of May at M Wine Store.
It about time we started being a little more patriotic about the quality of our sparkling wines, next time you think of buying a bottle of Champagne, take a moment to pick up a bottle of English instead, and see how far we have come!
All of the wines below are available in store and online at mwinestore.co.uk
Also don’t forget, Friday’s are drop in FREE wine tasting sessions with me!
DIGBY, NV, BRUT, SUSSEX, ENGLAND
Famed for having some of the finest English Pinot Noir grapes. A truly versatile, house style with great complexity and balance between citrus fruits that lees ageing. The palate has a slight almond, nuttiness with green apple on the finish
An elegant sparkling wine that encompasses all that is great about English wine production. The nose is floral and toasty at the same time. The palate is dry but crisp, lean acidity lifts the finish. A touch of red fruit lingers on the tongue. A great wine!
At M Wine Store we bring you Bluebell’s Hindleap Rose. Sweet red fruits dominate the nose with a touch of gun smoke. The palate has a slight, hedonistic touch of sweetness making it far too approachable, with the ripe red fruit profile carrying over harmoniously. A fabulous example of what the Brits are producing these days!
M Wine Store Manager | 00 44 2033 277 775 | 00 44 7986 851 901 | firstname.lastname@example.org
*Why not have your very own name or message engraved on a bottle of your choice! M Wine Store is now doing personalised engravings from £5 per bottle in store!*