Fine English wine – I’m not kidding – it exists

We continue our homage this week to English wine, given that it’s English Wine Week, by looking at just what you can expect from the produce and a few places helping promote the week if not by marrying their set-course menus to the wine they’re promoting, but also by stocking up on a few bottles of English Plonk.

Finding a good English wine (stick that in Google and see how many search results come back with an exact match – not too many!) has oft been a problem, especially in light of the recent celebrations where you can’t walk along a High Street without whacking your head of down-hanging bunting because everything just has to be British. But there are several supporters of this week’s event itself and the ongoing effort to bring English wine to the fore.

A popular place to procure English vintage has been online, with only specialist merchants actually carrying bulk stock of any note. The award-winning waitrosewines.com seems to be the most popular port of call, looking around the forums and blogs but there are many English vintners selling produce direct. The number of those has risen dramatically in the last decade or so.

So much so that there are approximately 400 vineyards in England producing their own wine or supplying the grape to mass producers in order that they may enhance the growing reputation of the niche. The latest figure is that England is producing in the region of 2,000,000 bottles of wine. It’s nothing like enough to make any sort of dent in the global wine market but, with all regions producing their own distinctive brand, it is most definitely a platform to launch from.

Perhaps of all the English wines, sparkling has taken off more than traditional red or white. With similar earth to take root in as the Champagne region of France, the matured and fermented grape, when blind-taste tested in international wine competition, has seen results that have been more than favourable, considering it is a bit of British bubbly. Reds have been a problem, but with the introduction of new grapes suited to our climate (and a lot of perseverance), you can picked up a full-bodied English red, too.

Whites, on the other hand, project a flowery bouquet and can be sharp, much in the way that the sparkling has a distinctive bite in comparison to our warmer-climed Continental competition. Uplifting on the palate it may be, but the acidity levels can have a knock-on effect the morning after if consumed in too much volume (which we shouldn’t be doing, anyway, should we, folks? The answer to that one is: “No!”, in case you were wondering).

So, next time you book your all-British cookery class, likewise I’m not jesting: over in Canada they are running cookery courses that are full-bodied Brit, you’ll know that, to complete the meal, you can pick up a bottle of English wine to suit.  Join me tomorrow when we delve even deeper into this growing sector of the wine market and highlight some of the most prolific vineyards on our home shores.

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