Giles Cooke, Take Stock’s resident wine expert, talks English wine:
Far from being portrayed as the laughing stock of the wine world, English wine is now lauded as a worthy rival to Champagne.
Such is the belief in the industry, a new term for English sparkling has been coined – Britagne – and the method of production mischievously called Methode Brittanique. Vinegrowing is not a new phenomenon in the UK – it is thought that the Romans first planted vines here and whilst interest and success has subsequently been fleeting and elusive, it now seems that with a little help from global warming and improved vinestock, English wine is here to stay. The iconic white cliffs of Dover are a clue to the secret success of English wines. Barely 80 miles apart, the regions of Champagne and the southern Home Counties share similar climates and identical chalky soil structures – both of which are ideal for growing grapes to make superb sparkling wines and fresh aromatic white wines. When looking to source English wines, it is vital to understand that English wine refers to wine made from freshly gathered English grapes. Avoid wines called British wine as this refers to wines made from reconstituted grape must bought from overseas – yuk!
English sparkling wines have much in common with Champagne – the blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier is the same and the method is identical. Where Champagne is all bling and marketing, English wine is all about quality and you could do no worse than try Nyetimber Classic Cuvee where 20 years of experience produce a fizz of great finesse and subtlety, more than a match for many Champagnes. A more recent addition to the scene has been Coates and Seely, whose Hampshire vineyards have yielded an inaugural Rosé that has wowed the critics. In a similarly sought after position is Camel Valley in Cornwall where the wines are reliably brilliant and, unfortunately, quickly sold out. For those in need of something less frothy but similarly exuberant, Chapel Down’s Coleridge Hill White is a thrilling explosion of elderflower, granny smith apples and delicious citrus tang – the perfect summer’s day white.
The economy may not give us much to celebrate but in the year of both the Jubilee and the Olympics, the sold out signs going up in English vineyards gives us ample reason to toast the success of our home grown wines.