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  • Writer's pictureClaire @ fromthegrapevine

English wine week


So, English wine week is here again. Many people are still surprised that English wines exist, but our winemaking tradition goes back to Roman times. The 1970s saw a revival in wine making, but it's only been in the last decade or so that the industry has really taken off. At the last count there were 450 vineyards in England and Wales. Around 80% are in the southern counties, but grapes are being grown as far north as Yorkshire.

The Royal family gave English wine a boost, with it being served at the Queen's jubilee in 2012, and at Harry and Meghan's wedding, with Camel Valley wines becoming Royal warrant holders.

This year's English wine week comes as the 2018 vintage is emerging on the market. The producers and pundits agree that the 2018 vintage has been the best ever for English wine. The abundance of sun gave a plentiful bounty of grapes and ripened them perfectly, so the wines are bursting with flavour. We've churned out over 15 million bottles from the 2018 vintage, compared to 6 million in 2014 and 4 million in 2010. It's fair to say then, that English wine is taking off.

 

Wine One - Pinot Aixerrois from A'Beckett's, £10

A'Beckett's is the largest of the three Wiltshire vineyards, with 11 acres of vines just south of Devizes.

Established in 2001, they have concentrated on growing just a few grape varieties, and taking them to Furleigh Estate in Dorset to be vinified. The Pinot Aixerrois (2014) is a lovely drink for summer, with plenty of apple and pear flavours with blossom aroma. The wine pairs well with a curry, but could be sipped on its own on a hot summer day.

The wine is suitable for vegans and can be bought at the vineyard shop during English wine week, online from their website shop, or from Three Trees farm shop in Chiseldon. 2018 was kind to A'Beckett's and the Rams Cliff rosé has just been released. They are delighted with the result, saying 2018 was an exceptional vintage, and the rosé is refreshing and bursting with strawberry flavours. We're hoping to taste is soon at Grapevine Towers!

 

Wine Two - Lyme Block bacchus, 2018 Aldi, £9.99

Well done to Aldi for joining Waitrose in putting great examples of English wines on mainstream supermarket shelves.

This Lyme Block is part of Aldi's Exquisite range and is currently "Wine of the week". Lyme Bay winery in South Devon uses the bacchus grape (a hardy cool climate German grape that has become England's signature grape) for the Lyme Block, and the 2018 vintage demonstrates the warmest summer ever with more tropical notes in the wine. The wine still retains is freshness though, and crisp acidity keeps this wine refreshing and aromatic.

 

Wine Three - Raven's Hill, Three Choirs Vineyard, £13

Red wines in England are less abundant than white and sparkling wines; our climate just doesn't provide enough heat to ripen red grapes for full bodied wines that consumers demand. The red wines that exist are lighter in body and can lack fruit flavours.

The Three Choirs vineyard in Gloucestershire produces a variety of white wines, but also a red "Ravens Hill". It's described as having a "deep, ruby colour...full of ripe blackberry and cherry fruit" and we would agree. It's made from the Regent grape, another German variety that is resilient in the cooler climates and therefore grows well in the UK.

A wide range of Three Choirs wines are stocked at the Three Trees farm shop in Chisledon, and the Ravens Hill is one of them. You can also buy it on the Three Choirs website or shop on site.

 

Wine Four - Nyetimber sparkling wine, Waitrose, £39.99 (On offer for Wine week at £27!)

Nyetimber were the first producers to grow the "holy trinity" of sparkling wine grapes in the UK - pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier. From their Sussex vines, the grapes slowly ripen and are hand picked to make sparkling wine by the traditional method.

The result is a dry, citrusy glass of bubbles with the brioche taste on the palate reminiscent of top Champers! The wine that has won award after award, and we are pleased to see that the special offer from Waitrose brings the wine into an attractive price range. If you have a special occasion on the horizon, grab a bottle now!

As it's English Wine Week, look out for dozens of special vineyard trails, winery tours, tastings and pop-up suppers celebrating the best of English wines and winemakers. If you're heading off on a half term break, then there's plenty going on in Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. Find out what's happening region by region at englishwineproducers.co.uk

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