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English Wine: Have You Discovered it Yet?

Historically, the English (along with the rest of the population of the British Isles) have been more famed for drinking wine than for making it. Nowadays, largely due to the global warming of recent years, all that is beginning to change. English wine producers are now a force to be reckoned with, competing with, and often beating major Champagne houses in renowned competitions, gaining worldwide recognition and global awards along the way.

Vines for winemaking have been grown in England since Roman times, but for centuries were either neglected or repurposed. However, during the 1950s, an English vineyard revival began to take hold, with Hambledon Vineyard in Hampshire being the first to produce wine commercially. There are now around five hundred vineyards in England and Wales - some of the largest and most famous being Nyetimber, Chapel Down, Denbie’s, Ridgeview and Gusborne. French Champagne houses are also starting to recognise the potential and are now purchasing their own vineyards in Southern England, Taittinger and Pommery being two of the most recent.

The South-Eastern English counties of Essex, Sussex and Kent are the most suited to viticulture, their chalky-limestone soils and slightly warmer, drier climate meaning that the growing conditions are similar to those of the Champagne region of Northern France. For this reason, the grapes grown here are the same varieties as in Champagne – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The English sparkling wines produced in this region are made using the same traditional method as in Champagne reflecting this in both style and taste.

Although 65% of English wines produced are sparkling, still wines are also becoming more popular. The white grape, Bacchus, grows well in cooler English climates, producing a delicious, crisp and refreshing white similar in style to the ever-popular Sauvignon Blanc. Pinot Noir can also be grown here, to produce light, easy-drinking reds.

England is currently one of the most up-and-coming wine regions in the world. English wine is now readily available both in supermarkets and independent wine retailers. It is also possible to purchase it directly from vineyards via their website. As the success of English wine continues to grow, I urge you to give it a go if you haven’t done so already. Now the preferred choice of sparkling wine for many people, myself included, don’t let this be an undiscovered treasure for you.

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