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English Wine where to start.

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Did you know that English wine has been around for over 2000 years?

The first grape vines were planted when the Romans settled in the UK. Quite how successful they were we don’t know but there are reports to suggest they did produce their own wines in England.

Since then the English Wine industry, especially in the last 10 years, has grown from a few determined wine enthusiasts into a globally recognised industry with many vineyards winning prestigious awards from the likes of Decanter and selling out before the year is out.

Even the English Royal family are getting involved; the Queen has her own vineyard at Windsor producing highly sort after and in very limited supply sparkling wines.

English wine - Seyval blanc grapes
English Seyval blanc grapes

If you’re thinking England doesn’t have a suitable climate to produce wines, you would not be alone, however it makes a lot of sense and It’s all down to geography. More specifically the ‘terroir’.

The rock and soil (terroir) that makes the wines from Champagne produce such wonderful vibrant expressions of flavour and character are also found along England’s southern coastline.

This natural Geological structure, chalk, deep underground extends all the way across the channel to the South East of England meaning that it’s quite logical for England to grow wonderful grapes and produce exceptional wines; the Romans were onto something!  

The English sun in the summer may not have the same intensity and heat as they have in Southern Europe, but this bodes well for the more delicate grape varieties which are ideal for producing White, Rose and sparkling wines.

It’s all down to the science of what grapes need to produce wonderful wines.

White grapes skins are slightly thinner than red grape skins, which means they can grow and flourish in a cooler climate.

It’s not just down to the climate and soil conditions, the final ingredient comes from world class wine makers, which England has plenty of. Many have trained with some of the most prestigious central European wine houses and then turned their craft and knowledge to developing and producing English wines.

For example, there is an ‘Urban winery’ in London, called Renegade London, who’s head wine maker had experience working with French vineyards and he is not the only one.

The English wine industry also produces a highly sort after sparkling wine, The Windsor Great Park, made from grapes ground at Windsor.

If you’re uncertain where to start with English wine here are some helpful tips to enjoy your English wine journey.

  1. White wines from England are best enjoyed with salty fish dishes or foods with rich texture. They pair perfectly with freshwater fish dishes too. To keep it traditionally British, pair with fish and chips. Grilled sole or scallops pair perfectly too.   A spicy Thai or Indian dish would be perfect too.
  2. English Sparkling wines don’t just serve as a wonderful celebration wine, they’re an ideal aperitif and great accompaniment to food.  Try serving with cured meats, Parma ham and ripe cherry tomatoes or Scottish smoked salmon on crusty bread, chicken and curry style dishes.
  3. An English Rose is perfect served on a late afternoon sunny day. The delicate summer fruit flavours of strawberries and raspberries are balanced by a soft intensity with depth. These wines have enough body to be enjoyed with chunky chips or simply on their own.
  4. Rarer to find are the English red wines. Due to their delicate flavour profile Try these with pasta dishes and light cured meats. Soft flavours are key.
  5. Explore some of the lesser known English wines; there are some exceptional wines available and they’re all in limited supplies. Such as organic English sparkling wines from Oxney or Trevibban Mill.  This will broaden your own wine knowledge and experience.

I trust these hints will help ensure your English wine journey is filled with good conversation and wonderful wines.

Guy Heywood
The English Wine Collection.

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