It’s English Wine Week!
When I first started out in the wine trade over twenty years ago (that’s one way to make me feel old!) the idea of English wine being of the quality and standard it is now was almost unthinkable. Over the years there is no doubt that the quality of these wines has continued to improve and they are now competing with some of the finest wines from around the world.
A Bit of History
English wine dates as far back as Roman times with stories of Julius Caesar bringing the first vines over to the UK from Rome and winemaking continued until at least the time of the Normans in the late eleventh century with over 40 vineyards mentioned in the Domesday Book.
Throughout the 20th Century English wine enjoyed a chequered path and it was not until after the turn of the Millennium that the true quality we see today started to appear. Sparkling wines were starting to be produced that would start to compete with Champagne, the soil in many UK wineries is ideally chalky and much the same as the soil found in Champagne. The climate has become more favourable to wine growing over the past couple of decades, this is particularly the case for sparkling wines. Champagne houses, who are increasingly worried about the rising temperatures in the Champagne region, have started to look to England and Taittinger has recently purchased 40 acres. These wines will not be ready for a few years yet but when Mr Taittinger is showing more than a passing interest it shows just how far the English wine market has come in such a short space of time.
Is It All About the Bubbles?
What has impressed me the most recently is the quality and variety of still wines that are now being produced. I recently had the pleasure of trying the Horsmonden White from Davenport and thought this was a fantastic piece of winemaking. Well balanced acidity and hints of tropical fruits throughout, this would give any Kiwi Sauvignon a run for its money. They also produce a brilliantly elegant Pinot Noir to match, the skill and technique required to make wines of this quality whilst having to constantly battle the rather unhelpful English rains and summer (or the lack of in the case of the latter!)
We have recently brought on wines from Oxney Estate in Sussex, the largest single estate Organic winery in the UK. If you are after a summer drop the Pinot Noir rose is perfect for a warm summers evening and the Oxney Estate Brut NV is the perfect example of why English Sparkling wines are competing with it’s more illustrious rivals from Champagne. As with a lot of bubbles from England it has hints of apple as well as strawberry and with the Seyval Blanc grape also used as well as the 3 traditional Champagne varietals, it has a wonderfully balanced acidity at the finish. Perfect for Fish & Chips!
So, if you have not tried an English wine before then this week would seem to be the ideal time. The hard part will be picking a favourite between them. To help with this we have popped our favourite 4 together in a mini case for you.