WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT ENGLISH SPARKLING AND NON SPARKLING WINES
Remember Monty Pythons’ sketch in the famous ‘Life of Brian’ movie?
“What have the Romans ever done for us?” And one of the answers was “wine”!
Indeed, despite its high latitude location, England has a long oenological history: many, many years ago, the Romans introduced viticulture on the island and wine-making continued through the centuries (the vines were present in the “Domesday Book”, the census wanted by William the Conqueror in 1086), although, honestly, without much success, as most of the wine was actually used for religious celebrations.
Recently something has happened and English wines have finally found their own space in the global wine market. In fact, starting from the 70’s a real “Renaissance of English wine” has begun and in the last 20 years, they have been awarded internationally in various competitions and have been recognized by both consumers and experts for their excellent value.
English sparkling wines
So what made this possible?
Maybe these changes are a side effect of the global warming that mitigated temperatures, as someone says, but they can also be connected to the development of wine making techniques in the vineyard and in the cellar as well as to the introduction of a serious legislation. Certainly it has been a real boom especially for bubbles, and these wines, once little considered, are now able to compete with those of the famous Champagne region.
The most important area for English wine production is the idyllic setting of the south-east of England (especially Sussex and Kent) where the classical Champagne blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Petit Meunier have found an ideal habitat giving excellent results.
Here the gulf currents are able to correct the rigidity of the British climate, while the calcareous soils do the rest, so that the favorable position has earned the area the nickname of “garden of England”. A sign of how times change is visible especially in the numbers that speak of a third of more hectares of vineyards registered in the last years, as well as of British and foreign investors who bought land to produce wine.
English still wines
Most of the production is focused on sparkling wines, but it’s not all about the fizz. And if the conditions do not allow a full ripening of red grape varieties, white wine production is increasing with Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon making their appearance on the side of the traditional Seyval Blanc, Muller Thurgau and Bacchus grapes, while some interesting rosé and sweet wines are also available on the market.
Nonetheless, total wine production is quite vintage sensitive. Viticulture can still be a tricky affair in England; grape ripening can be hard work in certain years and fungal disease is always a risk. A lot of work in the vineyards is required and production is limited especially compared to other countries, which also explains the relatively high prices of these wines.
So, if you haven’t tasted any of English wine yet, this Christmas, try something different; celebrate with some local bubbles or enjoy a fresh autochthonous aperitif! Download Wine Picker, a food and wine pairing app to discover the wide range of English wines and their food matching options.