English wine is picking up awards around the globe. Here are five vineyards producing top tipples.
English wine has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. In fact, the 2013 harvest figures for the UK have revealed the highest production on record – a total of 33,384 hectolitres, or just below 4.5 million bottles.
Such figures reflect a healthy growth of the English wine industry, with hectarage doubling in the past seven years. Sparkling wine now accounts for around two thirds of England’s total production, with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier racking up just under 50% of recent plantings together.
Although generally more expensive than their imported French cousins, mainly due to the scale of the operations across the channel, English wines are now taken very seriously.
A brief history of English wine
Evidence suggests that vines were grown during Roman times, possibly on a commercial scale. But successive invasions put an end to that. Wine growing was revived following the Norman conquest, but mainly in monasteries and by nobles growing on their own land.
It then died out in the Middle Ages, before a small revival from the seventeenth century, again among the landed gentry.
It began to expand from the amateur to the professional with the planting of a sizeable vineyard at Hambledon in Hampshire in 1951.
The period between 1976 and 1995 saw a large number of vineyards spring up and the number of wines on the market grow. At the same time, growers began to adopt a far more scientific approach.
More recently, white and sparkling varieties have begun to inspire tastebuds among experts around the globe.
What to eat with English wine
The sparkling whites make a great accompaniment to canapes, cheese, grilled fish, shellfish and smoked salmon. The roses, both still and sparkling, go well with summer fruits including strawberries. And the reds make fine companions for lighter meats such as salt marsh lamb.
Now let’s have a look at five of the top producers.
There were vines grown on this West Sussex estate at the time of the Domesday Book, although it wasn’t until the early 1970s that Juliet Linter bought the estate back to life. Its Blanc de Blancs 2007 won the Gold Outstanding medal in the International Wine & Spirit Competition. The judges described it as like “pure white mousse”.
What it makes: white, red, rose (still and sparkling)
More info: www.bookersvineyard.co.uk
This Cornish vineyard was set up by ex-RAF pilot Bob Lindo and his wife Annie in 1989. The estate’s sparkling wines have consistently won awards – its Cornwall Brut 2010 picked up a gold gong at the International Wine Challenge. And its Pinor Nor Brut 2010 won gold at the 2012 Decanter World Wine Awards.
What it makes: white, red and rose (still and sparkling)
More info: www.camelvalley.com
The vineyard at this manor house in the Weald of Kent is dedicated to the production of a rose wine of "world-beating quality". And its Balfour Brut Rose – which is made from the classic Champagne grape varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – has duly won a host of awards.
What it makes: white, rose (still and sparkling)
More info: www.hushheath.com
Formerly a working farm, Stuart and Sandy Moss embraced wine-making in 1988. The West Sussex estate was the first English vineyard to solely grow the grapes of the Champagne region – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Nyetimber’s Blanc de Blancs 2007 won a Gold medal at the International Wine & Spirit Competition.
What it makes: sparkling white and rose
More info: www.nyetimber.com
Ridgeview Wine Estate
Founded in East Sussex in 1994, Ridgeview is a family vineyard dedicated to sparkling wines. Its Marksman 2009, a Chardonnay produced for M&S, won a gold medal at the International Wine Challenge. It's also producing sparkling wines for Waitrose and the Wine Society.
What it makes: sparkling white and rose
More info: www.ridgeview.co.uk
Do you drink English wines? If so, what are your favourite varieties? If not, why not? Share your thoughts in the Comments box below.
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