I overheard my husband telling someone yesterday that he’d taken guests on a wine tour over the weekend. They responded with ‘’what type of wine is that?’’ and in my head I answered for him, ‘’well it’s English wine of course’’.
But after a moments thought, I soon realised that while a small number of us know what ‘’English Wine’’ entails, to many the fact we even grow grapes here is surprising, let alone knowing what style of wine we make.
So if you’d like a little bit of insight before booking an English Wine Tour with us, there are many different styles of wine in the UK but ultimately we are a cool climate wine producing region so there are certain wines we that we do really well and some that we just don’t have enough sunshine for.
While we do get some sunshine, it rarely gets above 30 degrees which means we have a perfect climate for growing grapes that are ideal for sparkling wine and still dry white and rose. You will find reds too, but these will be light bodied and fruit forward, nothing like a big red from California.
The cool climate also means our wines are fairly low in alcohol with most of English Wine being between 10 and 11%.
While English Wineseems like a relatively new thing, it’s actually been around since the Romans landed on our shores, but the style and approach, along with the climate has changed significantly over this time. In its present form you will find two distinct characteristics in our wine making based on the grape varieties used.
Germanic grape varietals are hugely successful in our cool climate. They cope well with the Spring frosts, cooler summers and abundant rainfall. These are grape varieties that you’ve possibly never even heard of, such as Seyval blanc, Reichensteiner, Müller-Thurgau and Bacchus to name a few. Generally, these are used for making still wines, but you will find the occasional sparkling wine made from these grapes. Bacchus is currently the UK’s number one still white wine and becoming increasingly popular for its floral nose and light body. These wines will still be considered dry, but will have a slightly sweeter finish similar to a Riesling.
However most new plantings are made up of the three nobel grape varieties Pinot Noir, Pinot Meniere and Chardonnay. These became popular in the 1990’s when Nytimber planted the three nobel varieties and produced a sparkling wine and in won the 1998 award for the ‘’Best Sparkling wine in the world’’ in the International Wine & Spirits Competition. This really put England on the map for producing sparkling wine and made everyone realise we now had the right climate and skills to produce award winning sparkling wine.
Around 65% of the wine produced in the UK is sparkling wine, with the majority of this being made in the traditional method. Increasingly we are producing some amazing still wines, with these grape varieties.
So overall if you are thinking of visiting the wine regions in the UK, expect a lot of sparkling wine, this is what we are really good at and hang our hat on. Most of our sparkling is Brut as we like our wine quite dry here. Still wines you will find a mix of white and rose, again these will be dry but the wines made from Germanic grapes will have a slightly sweeter finish (although you still couldn’t describe these as sweet wines). Our reds are light bodied and easy drinking, many non- red wine drinkers have been converted to English Wine on our English Wine Tours.
Most importantly as a definition English Wine is and can only be made of grapes grown in England. You can also get Welsh Wine, which as you can no doubt guess is made from grapes grown in Wales. Do not confuse this with British wine, British wine is entirely different and can be made from imported grapes (and grape concentrate) but bottled in the UK. Generally this is a much sweeter and while I’m biased I’d encourage you to avoid it altogether!
If you join an English Wine Tour with us, we always try to take you to contrasting vineyards so you will get to try different styles and a variety of wines on the day. If you want to find out more about English Wine all our tour guides are experts in English Wine and we’d love to see you on a wine tour so we can teach you more.
Find out more about our tours hereVineyard Tours or get in touch and we can tell you all about then.