English wine is winning lots of awards at the moment and it’s gaining prestige internationally. However, in the past English wine hasn’t had a great reputation. Sometimes I look at the bottles in the wine merchant and wonder why it’s so expensive. Is a bottle of English sparkling as good as a bottle of champagne? Should I be trying English still wine? I love wine but I don’t class myself as an expert so I asked Rebecca Pitcairn, founder of online English wine journal, The Southern Quarter why she loves English wine so much and why she feels it is great value for money.
What is the inspiration behind ‘The Southern Quarter’?
The majority of my career as a journalist and editor has been spent working on regional newspapers and magazines in the South East of England – predominantly in Kent, Surrey and Sussex. During this time, I have developed a huge passion for all things local and uncovering hidden gems right on the doorstep. On a personal level, I am fascinated by the wine and passion that goes into making it and how it has the ability to make food – and life – taste better.
The growing conditions in the vineyards of the South East are becoming increasingly similar to those in the Champagne region of France. These vineyards are leading the way when it comes to English wine production.
The Southern Quarter website is a marriage of both my personal and professional passions. It aims to promote and educate people about the wine of Kent, Surrey, and Sussex. I want to inspire others to discover more about wine, particularly from this region – the home of English wine.
Why do you love English wine?
I adore travel, it is another one of my passions and I really enjoy tasting wines from other countries. However, having worked in local journalism for almost two decades, I’m continually inspired by what is on my doorstep. English wine has come on massively in the past 20 years. We now produce some of the best wines in the world and not just sparkling but still wines too. They seem to be getting better and better with more and more vineyards popping up each year. The passion of the people who make English wine is also totally infectious so it’s hard not to get excited by it when you meet them.
Where does the best English wine come from?
This is a difficult one to answer as I’ve not quite yet managed to try every single wine produced here in England! But the South East of England – particularly Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire – is definitely leading the way.
People sometimes ask why English wine is so expensive. Why do you think this is?
There are a number of reasons English wine is more expensive than wine from other parts of the world. Most wine in England isn’t mass produced. It comes from small vineyards that have lower grape yields than wine regions in some other countries. The wine-making techniques here are also much more labour intensive, therefore the quality of wine is better. So, you are paying for the quality. English wine isn’t made to be quaffed!
How have English vineyards fared during the lockdown 2020?
I think they have done exceptionally well in the circumstances. Obviously, those who sold to trade were impacted massively but most of the vineyard owners I have spoken to have adapted their offering to maximise retail opportunity. A number of vineyards, for example Kinsbrook in Sussex, have launched their first-ever wines during lockdown. The English wine industry is a very resilient bunch.
What can we expect during the next 12 months?
I think sustainability is going to be increasingly key within the world of English wine. A number of vineyards, such as Albury in Surrey and Oxney in Sussex, are already organic or biodynamic but I think we will see more adopting these practices and being certified as such.
In my opinion, encouraging people to visit vineyards is key to getting more people to enjoy English wine and so I think we will see more vineyards working to step up the visitor experience to be much more than just vineyard tours and tastings. Some vineyards provide overnight accommodation on site so people can make more of their visit and I think we will start to see a lot more of this.
After speaking with her I have a much clearer idea of what makes English wine so special. I’m really excited to try a few bottles over the coming weeks, particularly of still English wine.
If you want to find out more about English wine then why not join a subscription service. Corkk Wines gives an opportunity to try new wines every month from a carefully chosen selection. It is the perfect introduction to the wide variety of styles of English wine.
Photography: Andy Newbold