English vines, English wines

The latest up-and-coming wine region

Long gone are the days when restaurant wine lists were dominated by French, Italian and Spanish labels. English wine is finally making the cut – and it’s taking the wine world by storm.

Fine English fizz is enjoying a huge surge in recognition and production, and now holds its weight in international wine competitions against the cream of Europe and the New World regions.

And it’s no longer a tiny, cottage industry. Today, England has over 115 wineries, and over 400 vineyards – mostly located in the south of England.

A growing business

Forget the sweet, cidery plonk of yesteryear – instead, expect a light, delicate, aromatic style.

Our cooler climate produces light, subtly scented wines – look at the produce of the relatively northern Loire, Mosel and Champagne regions for comparison.

Global warming has meant that England – and southern England in particular – can ripen grapes just that little bit more than it used to.

Identifying an English white wine

Pick a dry white and you should be able to spot some of that distinctive quality of decent English wine.

  • A fresh scent that mingles white blossom with chopped lemon – with hints of nettles and grass
  • A crisp, racy acidity, with citrus and apple flavours on the palate
  • A clean, often bone-dry finish

The sparklers are considered especially fine – with a mineral freshness, zesty lemon and lime flavours, and a delicate toasty hint.

And the reds?

Don’t expect mature full-bodied reds from our climate – instead, think soft, light and berried – rather like a simple Beaujolais.

Lightly chilled, and served with cold meats, salads and mild cheeses, an English red makes a great glassful.

But if you prefer super-rich, ripe Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Viognier – all grapes which need very hot sun to ripen – then England may not be the wine region for you.

A match made in heaven

What works with English wine?

  • Try a sparkling pink with oriental food – sushi and soft, sticky rice in particular is lovely with the gentle, yeasty fizz
  • A lemon-fresh Bacchus pairs perfectly with asparagus and delicate white fish
  • Pair medium-dry whites with gently flavoured cheeses like Wensleydale
  • Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it – English sparkling wine works brilliantly with top-notch fish and chips

Exclusively for members

(22 November 2013)