Written by Mike Best, WSET Certified Educator
English wine is moving into a new era. It is now widely available in retailers and restaurants and rising on the international stage.
It is not without considerable effort that wine is produced here, as there are many challenges when growing grapes in a cool climate. Why do people persist making wine here? Because England is capable of making great quality wine! Having won several trophies in top blind wine tasting competitions, there is now no doubt that we can make home grown world class wine. Five million bottles of wine were produced in the UK last year and considerable investment into new plantings as well as high profile partnerships between UK vineyards and Champagne houses show the future is bright.
England’s strength is sparkling wine, made using the same traditional method as is used to make Champagne. In the majority of cases, the wines are made from one or all three of the main Champagne varieties, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier. These are internationally revered for production of top-quality sparkling wine because they have natural high acidity, ripen in cool climates and take on rich, toasty flavours from ageing.
How is it different to Champagne? Though a lot of technology and know-how has been based on Champagne, wineries are starting to understand what is best for them. What I love about English wine is its precise, complex fruit flavour. A long growing season allows for a slow maturity of flavour, which means you have a complex array of fruits from granny smith apples, to fresh raspberry to ripe strawberry.
English still wines are also increasing in quality. The white Bacchus grape is steadily becoming England’s own; it looks likely to have a good future with its crisp style and flavours of citrus fruits and nettle. Some red wines are made too. There are some terrific wines made using Pinot Noir in a light, fresh style with red fruit flavours of cherry and berry.
When it comes to food pairing, seafood is unsurprisingly a good match, whether that’s an expensive Dover sole or simple fish and chips. The high acidity works well with the oily fish and can cut through the fatty nature of the batter.
The rise of English wineries has also gone hand in hand with tourism. Winery tours, visits and educational activities are becoming increasingly popular. Some wineries are also offering WSET wine courses!
The best way to experience these wines is to taste, taste, taste! Or, if you’re interested in learning more about how climate and production methods influence the flavours of wines, or how to pair them with foods, why not take a WSET course? WSET School London on Bermondsey Street offers beginner to expert courses for enthusiasts and professionals. Visit wsetschool.com to learn more.