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Ep 340: UK Wine and its Past, Present, and Future

Wine for Normal People

Release Date: 08/24/2020

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Although limited in availability, English wine is rising in popularity. Climate change, bedrock soil that's similar to Champagne and Chablis, and growers with know-how have changed England from a producer of mainly plonk wine into a viable wine nation, with sparkling wine leading the charge.

Source: Decanter

 

Access in the US is limited, so admittedly this is more of an academic exercise, but in the show we discuss the history, as well as the present, and bright future of UK wine. 

 

After discussing the history (details which can be found here), we get into details of climate, regions, and styles of wines. Here are the show notes: 

Climate and land

  • Most of the wine regions in the UK are at 50˚ latitude and higher, making it hard to ripen grapes. Long daylight hours in the growing season, and temperature diurnals, however, lead to slow ripening and the development of aromatics -- all very positive for UK wine. 
  • The weather in the UK wine regions, although warmer and drier than all other parts of the UK, and warmer than it used to be, is still erratic -- with winds, rain, and humidity creating issues during flowering and harvest. 
  • There is limestone chalky soils in Sussex, Kent, Essex, and throughout Southern England – a great foundation on which to grow grapes used to produce sparkling wine

 

The grape varieties planted:

  • Pinot Noir* 29.7%
  • Chardonnay 28.9%
  • Pinot Meunier 11%
  • Bacchus 6.9%
  • Seyval Blanc 4.2%

 

  • A brief caveat:“British wine” and “English wine” are not the same thing!!!
    • A wine can only be called ‘English’ if it is made from grapes grown in England, ‘British’ wine can be made from grapes grown elsewhere, as long as it is fermented and bottled in the UK. Don't call English wine, British wine! 

 

Significant UK Wine Regions:

Sussex 

  • In the southeastern corner of England, along the English Channel.
  • The warmest, driest wine region, Sussex is known for high-quality sparkling and still wines. 
  • South Downs is especially of note, with limestone chalk soils and lots of calcareous rock.
  • Bacchus – the cross of a grape made from Silvaner x Riesling with Müller-Thurgau is showing great promise of having floral, apple notes with good acidity 

Kent 

  • With ~50 vineyards, “the Garden of England” in southeast England, is known for growing cereal crops, orchard fruit, and other food.
  • Here, the White Cliffs of Dover form the coastline and this area shares the same bedrock as that of Champagne, Chablis and Sancerre.
  • Other unique areas in Kent Greensand Ridge and The Weald between ridges of North and South Downs.
  • The still wines from Bacchus, and exceptional sparkling from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay caught the eye of Champagne house Taittinger, who in 2015 became the first Champagne producer to invest in the UK 
  • Notable producers: Chapel Down, Biddenden, Gusbourne

 

Essex 

  • Research published in the Journal of Land Use Science  identified 83,000 acres of land in the UK that could be good for vineyards. Essex was cited as the top location.
  • Notable Producers: Dedham Vale, New Hall Vineyards (been around since the 1960s), West Street Vineyard

Surrey

  • Second Champagne house investment with Pommery and Hattingley Valley in a partnership.
  • One of England’s largest producers - Denbie’s Estate is here (Elizabeth says it's "meh")

Hampshire

  • The home of England’s first modern commercial vineyard. Seyval Blanc and sparkling wine shine here. 

 

East Anglia

  • Norfolk and Suffolk have more clay so denser wines of  Bacchus are showing promise. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are also grown. 

 

South West England

  • Camel Valley – Cornwall’s largest vineyard is well esteemed

UK Wine's Future:

  • The wines are now exported to more than 40 countries including: USA, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Other Europe, Canada, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, and China
  • There is and will continue to be a push for sustainable farming. The Sustainable Wines of Great Britain (SWGB) certification has 40% of the industry pledged to be more sustainable.

 

Top producers: Nyetimber, Chapel Downs, Ridgeview (Sussex),  Gusborne, Harrow & Hope, Wiston Estates, Camel Valley Vineyard & Winery, Cornwall

 

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