Is English wine a thing? You may or may not know that I am a Brit living down under and I’m heading home for a visit which got me thinking…what’s the wine sitch on my home soil? Do they make it, is it good, can I try some? Let’s answer some of those burning (?) questions on English wine…
Let’s start slow. Is wine produced in England?
Why yes fine sir, it is. This is how we all really speak. That aside, while we’ve definitely been committed to drinking wine for a long time, we only recently began committing to producing English wine. Vines planted have doubled in the past ten years and they’re expected to continue to pop up sooo let’s do this England.
OK, where are these vineyards then?
According to English Wine Producers, there are no fewer than 577 vineyards across the UK. While the colder climes might be a little more sparse on the wine front – Scotland has four, the north has 19 and Wales has 23 – the south-east alone has 152 and the south-west has 136. The biggest regions all lie in the South including Sussex, Surrey and Kent with the highest density of vineyards and wine production.
Which type of wine is England known for producing?
The majority of wine coming out the UK is Sparkling. In fact, the most popular grapes include Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier which are the three primary grapes used for traditional method English sparkling wines. On top of that, the sparkling is actually good! The Decanter World Wine Awards saw English sparkling pick up 130 medals in 2015 and word is that 2018 was the best vintage yet after a hot summer on home ground.
Side note: I knew fizz was in my blood and it turns out I was right with the conditions at home almost matching the soil and weather in champagne. *Clinks*
Do the Brits make anything other than sparkling?
Yeah, England ain’t a one trick pony! They do make some still whites and a very small portion of reds. Other grape varietals other than Pinot Noir, Chardy and Pinot Meunier include –
- Bacchus: A white German that makes aromatic wines that tend to be low acid and typically used in blends.
- Ortega: Another German white that ripen early with a peachy scent that usually ends up as a sweet wines.
- Seyval Blanc: French white hybrid in mineral style that’s used in late harvest or dessert wines.
- Reichensteiner: The fifth most planted variety in England is a high acid German crossing used in the famous fizzy fizz sparkling wines.
Why has English wine only recently taken off?
England has seen slow but consistent growth in the past ten years and is having a renaissance right now. Climate change is playing a huge part in this and the issues that used to plague winemakers are becoming things of the past. The quality of wine is also increasing, giving champagne a run for its money and without the hefty price tag as the land is meant to be cheaper plus English sparkling doesn’t come with the ‘brand’ that champagne holds.
Where can I buy it?
Great question – I’m trying to answer this myself so suggestions welcome. Turns out there’s some retailers who sell here in Australia but they whack a nice premium on thanks to the 10,000 mile distance. Thankfully Dan Murphy’s has an English Brut option that I must try to pick up for research purposes obviously.
Where can I learn more?
If you’re in the UK, try heading to a vineyard/winery. The oldest vineyard in the UK is Hambledon Vineyard in Hampshire which was established in 1951. They have tours, experiences and events and you can take your WSET here if that’s your vibe. If you’re not in England, Josh’s Wine List put together a great podcast series on Spotify about English wine. Head to my blog on wine podcasts here to find out more and get the links. You can also check out Wines of Great Britain online for industry stats, events and training.