A celebration of the diverse and ever-growing English wine industry.
English wines are just getting better and better. At the 2010 Decanter World Wine Awards this year, an English sparkling wine beat all of its French peers to the trophy. Whilst most of the English vineyards are in the sunnier, Southern counties, there are also vineyards in the West Country, in Wales, even right up north in Yorkshire. Finally, we can proudly say that we are on the viticultural map of the world.
In celebration of English wines, iLoveMyGrub brings you our pick of the crop, a comprehensive introduction to the ever-growing English wine industry. It is important to note, however, that while there are vineyards in Wales and England alike, wine from these vineyards should always be referred to as Welsh and English wine respectively, never British wine. Surprisingly this is not because of old rivalries between England and Wales. The reason goes beyond geography. Before there were vineyards here, people used to make ‘wine’ out of imported grapes. This moonshine, which is officially termed ‘British wine’, was (and often still is) very poor quality. Vintners in England don't tend to want their wine to be associated with this, and hence wine produced from English or Welsh-grown grapes is labelled English or Welsh wine.
So, without further ado, and without a ‘British wine’ in sight, here is iLoveMyGrub’s pick of some of the interesting wines being produced here at the moment:
- **White: **Sedlescombe *'Old Vine'* organic (£12.95), from *Sedlescombe **Vineyard*, East Sussex
This vineyard is run by Roy and Irma Cook. Their vineyard is unique in the fact that it has been totally organic since it opened in 1979, and has recently become England’s first bio biodynamic vineyard. They have won many awards over the years for their pioneering methods.
Sedlescombe’s Old Vine white is a special edition wine made from their original, 30 year old vines to mark their anniversary. Old Vine uses a blend of two grapes, Reichensteiner & Siegerrebe. It is an intriguingly sweet smelling wine. It fools you into thinking it will taste like vin santo, but actually has a much more versatile flavour. Old vine is fruity without being too sweet, and is a perfect accompaniment to seafood. This is a wine that was produced before Sedlescombe went biodynamic, but it is still unusual for being organic. Not that you should judge a wine by its label, but this wine does have an attractively simple, yet traditional looking label.
- **Rosé: ***Gribble Bridge Rosé* (£8.95), from* Biddenden *vineyards, Kent
Biddenden, established in 1969, is Kent’s oldest commercial vineyard. The vineyard was started in an old orchard, and there are still apples grown there today, and they still make traditional cider as well as wine.
Biddenden’s Gribble Bridge Rosé is a blend of Dornfelder, Acalon, and Gamay grapes. This wine has a slightly lower alcohol content than some. While a lot of rosés can be very sweet, and are better drunk on their own, being hard to match with food, Gribble Bridge Rosé is not as sweet, and makes a great accompaniment to light summer foods. If you've marked rosé wine down as a girly drink, this is the exception.
Biddenden produce a wide range of different wines in all colours. They also produce white and rosé sparkling wines. They have won many awards over the years.
- **Red: ***Dark Harvest 2008* (£8.99), from *Bolney Wine Estate*, West Sussex
This vineyard is unusual in the fact that it is run by one of very few female vintners in the country, Samantha Linter. The vineyard specialise in red wine, which also sets it apart from many other English vineyards.
Linter says of the decision to focus on red wine that “*England is really well placed to make a lighter style red*”, and that “*there’s a demand for less alcoholic fruitier reds that is not being met hugely by other countries.*” Bolney is by no means a one trick pony though, and makes excellent sparkling wines too.
The 2008 Dark Harvest is indeed an extraordinarily light red wine, with only a hint of tannicity. For this reason it is the perfect red wine to drink in the summer time, when some reds might seem a bit heavy. Despite being so light and easy to drink, this wine has a pleasingly robust red colour. A truly unusual red.
- **Sparkling:** *2005 Classic Cuvée*, from *Nyetimber **Vineyards*, West Sussex
This is a relatively new vineyard, the first vines having been planted there in 1988. Nyetimber’s aim when they set out was heartily patriotic: they wanted to produce sparkling wines that could rival Champagne. They have received much attention and applause for the quality of their wine over the years.
Nyetimber’s Classic Cuvees blend Chardonnay grapes with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, both black grapes. This wine has all the elegance of Champagne, and can be enjoyed just as you would enjoy Champagne. Of course there is an added pleasure factor in that it is made from English-grown grapes. Nyetimber suggest that this wine should be enjoyed with seafood, but it is also a drink that deserves to be cherished in its own right, not just with food. It would be perfect to serve at a drinks party with simple fish canapés, so that ones attention need not be distracted from the bubbles themselves for too long.
**Written by: **Emily Boyd