28th May – 5th June marks English Wine Week, a national campaign designed to raise awareness and to promote English wine.
I think it’s fair to say that English wine has taken a while to get off the ground, owing to the adverse winters that we’ve become so accustomed to and difficulties in finding grapes that suit our climate.
Most of the vineyards are in the south-facing chalky hills of the South across Cornwall, Devon to Sussex and around to Essex and Suffolk.
The production of English wine is still very small, with consumption totaling a meer 1% of wine that we consume. Due to the small production, and the difficulties with the climate, English wine is generally quite expensive – but undoubtedly worth the cost. English wines generally cost between £10-20 for a bottle.
I’ve only been visited a few English vineyards so far, but these are the ones that I would strongly recommend;
PULBOROUGH, WEST SUSSEX
Managed by the Gladwin family since 1991, this vineyard has won a range of awards for its English wine. Nutbourne grows 7 types of grape, including Bacchus, Reichensteiner, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc.
When I went on a tour of the vineyard, the enthusiasm that Bridget had for her business was overwhelming. She explained that she initially bought the house as a family house with no experience of running a vineyard – but successfully managed to turn her hand to it with plenty of practice.
I tried quite a few of the wines at the vineyard, my favourite by far being their Hedgerow, an off dry wine with good depth and hints of hedgerow fruits and English herbaceous borders, it’s made from the Bacchus and Schonburger grapes – and is fantastic!
Their Nutty Brut is another award winner, a traditional fermented sparkling wine which is just divine!
Located next to the River Arun in The South Downs National Park in West Sussex, the vineyard is run by Simon. Simon started the vineyard back in 2007, when he planted a casual 21,000 vines on the six-hectare estate.
Quite a good claim to fame, Stopham’s debut 2010 vintage is stocked by Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir au Quat’Saisons restaurant – and was even served at the Queen’s golden wedding anniversary!
I was lucky enough to meet Simon on the wine tour and to quiz him about his wine making techniques. Simon is very scientific about wine production, and constantly hunting for the perfect balance of flavours. One of the ‘secret’ ingredients that he uses in his wine production is cream of tartare, but keep that under wraps!
The main thing that I remember about visiting Tinwood is the aroma of ‘toast’ in one of their sparkling wines. Definitely not an aroma that I was expecting, but a lovely brut nevertheless!
Tinwood only serves sparkling English wine, and is probably one of the better known vineyards within the United Kingdom.
ISLE OF WIGHT
Located on the hills hear Sandown, this vineyard is an absolute gem! The vineyard has a lovely little cafe where you can nibble on locally sourced produce which compliment their wines beautifully. There is also a small shop selling locally sourced produce.
Adgestone’s blush is described as ‘A light fresh blush with ripe fruit aromas. Pomegranate in colour with citrus notes. A true english wine to be enjoyed chilled on a warm day’ – I couldn’t put it better myself!
So, there’s a few from me – but trust me this is by no means an exhaustive list – nor even the tip of the iceberg! I have no doubt that you needed an excuse to drink more wine – but if ever you did, then now’s the week!