Last year Wine GB was formed by a by the English Wine Producers Trade Body and the UK Vineyards Association to merge to provide a unified approach to a generic marketing and communications programme for promotion of wines of Great Britain. They are benefitting from combining their strength and skills into one body to promote all GB vineyards as a single voice both at home and abroad.
English Wine Week 2018 is the first under the new branding and their aim is to encourage the greatest level of celebration of the fantastic wines produced in this country. It is a national marketing campaign, designed to raise awareness and availability of English wine. Sales of English wines, both still and sparkling are growing very rapidly and to match the increased demand wine producers in the UK will plant a record 1m vines over the next 12 months. This will allow growers to produce 2 million more bottles of wine a year in the south of a country not historically known for its viticulture.
New GB wine producers are springing up all time and launching their delicious wines in the UK trade. Rathfinny wine estate is a prime example. It was established in Alfriston in Sussex in the South Downs on a 400 acre estate. In the fantastic microclimate on south facing slope the three main grape varieties for quality sparkling wine production were planted – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Chardonnay – with the stated objective of producing world class sparkling wines.
I was lucky enough to visit Langham Wine Estate in Dorset on a recent visit to a friend nearby. This award winning producer is making delicious quality wines that have recently been recognised with gold medals in the Sommelier Wine Awards and the Independent English Wine awards. Like Rathfinny the vineyard has been established for a number of years and in the last few years has released wines on a commercial basis. It is in a great wine making terroir with south facing vineyards and they make wines with as little intervention as possible thus extracting the provenance and fruit quality.
Investment in the UK by Champagne producers is evidenced by the recent purchase of land in Kent by Taittinger with the aim of producing wine to be drunk in 2023. It is the first time a grande marque champagne house has planted a vineyard in the UK with the aim of producing a top quality English sparkling wine. The wine will be called Domaine Evremond, named after Charles de Saint-Évremond, the French writer who is credited with helping introduce 17th-century London to the habit of quaffing champagne.
The supermarkets are selling a wide range of English wines and Waitrose have their own vineyard, Leckford Estate, producing a brut sparkling wine. Marks and Spencer are also taking advantage of this trend adding many new English wines to their range.
Quality English wines can be recognised by a new system of labelling developed in the EU to protect the reputation of regionally produced foods. Protected status has been introduced for wines and they are labelled with ‘Protected Designation of Origin’ or Protected Geographic Indication.and will have passed certain taste or analytical parameters.
Other vineyards such as Sharpham, Shawsgate and Blackdown Ridge are gaining a reputation for consistently good still wines. The latter is just south of Haslemere in Sussex. This is a very young vineyard, developed from scratch by Martin Cook after an Italian winemaker friend visited a few years ago and thought it would be perfect for growing vines. It is the highest point in the South Downs attracts a large number of visitors who are now able to taste and buy their delicious wines.
Explore English wines during English Wines week when many wines will be available for tasting and many restaurants may well pair them with great English food!
Wine tourism – many producers welcome visitors for a vineyards tour and you can taste before you buy and they often have restaurants too.