When you think of a quintessentially English drink, you’re more likely to think of a nice cup of tea than a cool, crisp glass of wine. But there are now more than 500 vineyards in the UK, all producing new and innovative drinks that you definitely shouldn’t dismiss.
English Wine Week 2019 runs from 25th May to 2nd June, and this year, it’s set to be bigger than ever, correlating with the rise in popularity of English wine.
So what is it about England that allows it to produce such exceptional bottles? While we traditionally do not associate England with good weather, wine experts (such as Chapel Down’s Managing Director, Mark Harvey) agree that the English climate is actually ideal for certain types of wines.
Mark says that along with other factors, ‘the perfect climate conditions allow us to produce world-class sparkling wines and dry aromatic still white wines.’
Henry Connell, Co-Founder of The Uncommon (who produce English canned wine) also agrees that the climate is often an advantage: ‘Our grapes don’t ripen as quickly, which results in lower natural sugars and higher acidity,’ he says. ‘This is a great feature of a grape for sparkling wine or aromatic white wines and rosé.’
However, both experts agree that certain wines, such as robust red wines, would not be able to be produced this far north.
‘We wouldn’t be able to grapes that rely on warm weather or lots of sunshine hours like Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Syrah,’ Henry explains.
The best supermarket for English wine
Both Henry and Mark recommend Waitrose as a great place to start if you wish to shop for English wines. Coincidentally, the supermarket proudly reveals on their website that their customers ‘love English and Welsh wines.’
However, many other supermarkets and brands are now quickly catching up, in order to offer the British public (and those around the world) the best access to home-grown wines.
The English wine brands to know
Some of the most popular and well known English wine brands include Chapel Down, Bolney Estate, Nyetimber, Denbies Chalk Valley, Camel Valley and Ridgeview.
The best English red wine
Bolney Estate – Linter’s Red, available in store at Marks & Spencer: Made in Bolney Estate, a vineyard in East Sussex, this medium bodied red is made from rich black fruit, and has a hint of spice.
Bolney Estate Dark Harvest, £11.49, Ocado: Another red wine by Bolney Estate, this is medium bodied and dry, and is the perfect pairing for roast beef.
The best English white wine
Waitrose English White Wine, £9.49, Ocado: An affordable, simple white wine that is delightfully crisp, this is a great supermarket option.
The best English rose wine
Nyetimber Rose NV, £39.99, Waitrose: This beautiful sparkling rose is some of English wine’s best. It contains a mix of fresh red fruits and lovely spice notes.
Taste the Difference English Rosé 2018, £11, available in store at Sainsbury’s from 19th May: An affordable, accessible wine that’s super fruity with wild strawberries, juicy raspberries and ripe peaches, underpinned with a hint of elderflower.
The Uncommon Pinot Noir Bubbly Rose, £30 for four cans, The Uncommon: These beautifully packaged cans of Pinot Noir rose taste as good as they look.
The best English sparkling wine
Nyetimber Classic Cuvee England, £27.74, Ocado: This five star sparkling wine is the perfect affordable English alternative to Champagne. Made by Nyetimber, in West Chiltington, it’s a perfect dry white with a fizz.
Chapel Down Brut, £23, Sainsbury’s: One of the most renowned English wine makers Chapel Down, this features aromas of red apple, lemongrass and hints of strawberry.
English wine vineyards you can visit
If you fancy getting the full English wine experience, head to one of our most iconic vineyards to pick grapes, taste what’s on offer, and meet those who work to make the wine.
While there are vineyards all over the UK, most reside in the South due to the slightly milder climate. Head to the coast for Langham in Dorset, or Sharpham Wine & Cheese next door in neighbouring Devon. Just a little further on is Camel Valley in Cornwall, too. If you live in London, the closest option may be Chapel Down in Kent, or Denbies in Dorking, whereas those slightly north can visit Rodington vineyard in Shropshire.
English Wine Week 2019 runs from 25th May to 2nd June.