There is an ever-growing thirst for home grown wine, as wine producers and retailers have worked tirelessly to transform perceptions of English wine over the past decade. The industry was previously reduced to ultra-sweet sherry type bottles, but things have certainly changed – about time in our opinion!
The industry has been toasting an exponential growth, with figures from Wine GB revealing that sales of both English and Welsh wine increased by around 30% in 2020 over the previous year.
It’s also reported that, over the past 5 years, the hectarage of vines planted in England and Wales has nearly doubled, as more than 2,000 hectares of newly planted vines have been embedded across the English and Welsh countryside.
English vs British Wine – what’s the difference?
When it comes to wine, there is an important distinction between English (or Welsh) and British to be aware of, and it has nothing to do with politics. English wine, by law, is wine made exclusively in England – the vines are planted here, the grapes grow here, and they’re turned into wine here. Sounds obvious, right?
Here’s where it gets confusing. British wine is the name for a wine that’s ‘made’ on our soil, but the grapes have been imported. In fact, British wine is either made from an imported grape concentrate or, even worse, dehydrated grape compounds that are shipped over and then rehydrated here, before being fermented and bottled.
It’s therefore perfectly understandable why our wine was poorly regarded all over the world, simply because British wine was cheap and sweet – an inferior product compared to our European neighbours.
Stop with the latitude
In the world of wine, it’s commonly agreed that vines grow most successfully within the degrees of 30 and 50 either North or South of the Equator. Beyond this parameter, it’s either too hot or too cold.
It’s no surprise that English wine is experiencing a renaissance. It takes four minutes for the sun to pass 1 degree of latitude, and Birmingham is on 52.486 N compared to the infamous Champagne region in France on 48.917 N – much of a muchness really.
While we have a similar climate, we also have similar soil types. The most fortuitous wine regions in England are Sussex, Kent, and Surrey, all of which are dominated by chalky limestone soils which produce quality grapes for sparkling wine. Indeed, if that sounds familiar, it’s because these are the same types of soil found in…Champagne!
This helps to explain why sparkling wine has dominated the English wine industry, with 64% of bottles produced in 2020 being sparkling wine, compared to only 36% of bottles being still wine.
The most commonly planted grape varieties in England are Pinot Noir (33%), Chardonnay (32%), Pinot Meneuir (13%), and Bacchus (5%). The first three are most commonly used in the production of, you guessed it, Champagne. So why not pick up a bottle of English sparkling wine to help celebrate English Wine Week 2022?
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, meanwhile, are big hitters in varietal still wine too.
The ultimate food and wine pairings
Beef Wellington – a dish that was considered ‘’the height of English cuisine’’ in the 20th century – deserves a special wine pairing. From the puff pastry to the beef itself, a Beef Wellington requires a dry and medium-bodied red wine, such as Pinot Noir, to really elevate the flavours.
Chardonnay – the world’s most popular white wine – is much loved for a reason. Two dishes that Chardonnay is best served with are Dover Sole with Cream Sauce or a classic Fish Pie. When you have a fine fish such as Dover Sole, you won’t want to mask its delicate, sweet flavour with a heavy wine. This is why Chardonnay, with its range of flavours, is such a perfect pairing with it.
In 2018, Simpsons Wine launched the UK’s first still Pinot Meunier. The decadent wine was sealed under a Vinolok glass closure and is believed to be the UK’s first Blanc de Noirs still Pinot Meunier. Pinot Meunier is best served alongside roasted chicken, duck, or turkey – or grilled pork. It will also work well with mushroom-based recipes, such as a vegetarian mushroom stroganoff.
Whichever food and wine pairings you choose this English Wine Week, we’d love you to share some pictures with us on social media.