National English Wine Week is fast becoming a major fixture in the summer calendar of any wine lover. It’s a midsummer event and this year it’s going to be taking place between 19 and 27 June.
What is Happening
Winemakers through England will be opening their doors during English Wine Week. If you’re based in the South East there are plenty to choose from and many will be putting on special events. Some of our favourite vineyards are in Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Kent. Wine tourism is a growing industry. Vineyards are beginning to open cafes and restaurants to add to your experience. You can take a tour of the vineyards and, of course, you can try the wine as well. You’ll often get a discount on wines you buy at the Cellar Door so it’s well worth picking up a few bottles while you’re there.
Take a look at The Southern Quarter, a great online guide to English wine, to find out about vineyards in your area. UK wine regions aren’t only restricted to the South, there are English wines to explore almost everywhere. East Anglia is one of the driest regions of England and vineyards in Norfolk and Suffolk are producing some excellent wines. There are, in fact, English vineyards as far north as Yorkshire. And although we’re talking about English Wine Week here let’s not forget Wales!
History of English Wine
English winemaking has really taken off in the 21st century but it is not only a recent phenomenon. In fact, wine making is believed to have been introduced to England by the Romans. It got a further boost with the arrival of the Normans in 1066 and by the time King Henry VIIIth ascended the throne there were 139 sizeable vineyards in England and Wales. Wine continued to be made in England and Wales until the advent of the First World War. Vineyards were repurposed to grow crops and the industry didn’t recover.
However, the English wine industry is now having a resurgence. English Sparkling wine is gaining an international reputation for excellence, employing some the of best winemakers and winning awards. Climate change means the climate in the South of England is now similar to that of the Champagne region 40 years ago. What’s more, geological mapping shows that the chalky sub-strata of the South Downs is identical to that of the best Chardonnay vineyards in Champagne. Some of the most renowned French champagne houses, including Tattinger, have actually started buying vineyards here.
Not Only Sparkling Wine
When most of us think of English wine we are talking about internationally recognised English Sparkling Wine. This is made using the traditional method using the champagne grapes, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. However, English wine isn’t only sparkling. In preparation for National English Wine Week I’ve just ordered a mixed case of English wine from The English Vine. This contains wines made from Bacchus, which is becoming known as the flagship grape of English wine. Wines are usually fresh, easy drinking and summery, with high acidity and flavours of green apple and elderflower. Other cool climate grapes do well here too. My mixed case includes a Chardonnay from Cornwall which I’m hoping will be similar to Chablis, one of my favourite wines. There’s also a Pinot Gris and a Pinot Noir from Devon that I’m excited to try.
I’m going to be making a few vineyard visits myself this week. Raimes in Hampshire is always a favourite. I’ll be there in their summer courtyard this weekend enjoying a glass of their delicious Blanc de Noirs. I’m also keen to visit Gusbourne in the village of Appledore in Kent. Their English Sparkling was one of the first I tried and I’m keen to visit the vineyards for a tour.
To get ready for trying all that delicious English wine I’m putting together a pack of must have wine accessories for the week including our bestselling sparkling wine stopper, our Le Creuset sparkling wine opener, bottle of bubbles glasscloth and a great corkscrew for those still wines.