English vineyards have been popping up across the country at an unstoppable pace in the recent years and the wines on offer are very high quality and diverse in the range. Despite this many people I speak to are unaware of the quality and often reluctant to add a bottle or two of English to their home-spun wine-list. Perhaps now is a good time to address this?
There are now over 500 vineyards in the UK with many new ones appearing on the horizon. Britain’s cool (but warming) climate and undulating landscapes are proving an ideal location to produce regular harvests.
As a nation with a very long history of appreciating wine, British producers have proved themselves adept at developing the skills necessary to compete at an international level with the best-producing wine regions of the world. The evidence for this is in the hoard of medals that they are regularly awarded.
In the last five or so years of visiting vineyards in England, it has felt like a novel experience. Growing up, the idea of rolling curvatures of vines touching the sky were very much a mainland pleasure but today, with the aid of climate change among other factors, those alluring vistas are thriving in our midst.
Wherever you are in England or Wales, you are likely never far away from a source of fine wine. The Wines of Great Britain (WINEGB) have created a handy tool for searching for English wine producers wherever you are in the country. Do check it out and make an effort to become acquainted with your local wine producers.
The wrath of the virus (and how we got to #BIGEnglishWineGoodFriday)
Although over 200 vineyards are normally open to visitors, these are exceptional times and restrictions are rightly stopping us from exploring the pleasures of the English wine scene. The COVID-19 virus is also impacting the sales of wines to bars, pubs and restaurants as these are all closed too.
The British wine industry like most others everywhere around the world is having to think on its feet. Hampshire producer, Jacob Leadley, from Black Chalk Winery, commented recently that if everyone bought a bottle of English wine then that would likely save the industry. This musing quickly gathered momentum and has developed into a nationwide virtual event.
So here we are gearing up for the #BIGEnglishWineGoodFriday… as a tribute and gesture of goodwill to our home-sprung wine industry, Secret Sommelier is joining in the effort to do a little good for our national growers and producers.
The rise of online and home tasting
Since the lockdown, we are all discovering new ways of meeting up. Having our favourite drink of choice in hand can make long- (and also near-) distance chats a fabulous surrogate to physical meet-ups.
With Good Friday being a bank holiday we urge you to seek out a bottle of something English or Welsh to taste with your close ones, whether they be with you in lockdown, or, at the other end of a call. Even if you are totally isolated, you can join in the fun on social media by using the hashtag #theBIGEnglishWineGoodFriday.
Secret Sommelier explores
I have interviewed representatives from 3 English wineries for this piece: Hush Heath Estate and Winery, Bolney Wine Estate and Oastbrook Estate. In addition, we have tasted/are tasting their wines for our sparkling wine section of the site. These will be published one at a time starting on the evening of Good Friday.