Your English wine questions answered
English wine – what would you like to know?
Want to know more about English wine before you try it? Here at The English Wine Collection we are always happy to answer customer questions. The following Q&A includes questions that we regularly get asked, and so we thought it was a good idea to keep note and share our answers with you.
If you have any other questions regarding English wine please get in touch and we’ll be happy to answer and we may even add them to the Q&A list! Email -
1. Why are we hearing so much now about English wine, is it really a viable alternative to wines from other countries?
English wine has quickly grown from a few avid wine enthusiasts into a globally recognised industry. A report from 2017 on English vineyards and the English wine industry listed as many as 502 English vineyards.
These vineyards have an average size of four hectares, which is approximately the same size as four rugby pitches. These English vineyards produce four million (and rising) bottles of English still and sparkling wine each year.
The ‘wine world’ has had to acknowledge that English wines are not only acceptable, they’re world beating, award winning wines. Nyetimber’s Blanc de Blanc 2009 achieving both the International Wine Challenge 2017 Gold and the International Wines and Spirit 2017 Gold Outstanding Awards.
As with most industries, English wine has taken some time to get going. Once planted, the grape vines need years to mature, so the roots can grow deep into the ground and it’s only after careful attention to cultivating the vines and the local terroir that the best grapes are grown.
This is clearly not a quick process and can take a few ‘wine seasons’ before the best grapes are produced. As with most crops, the finest fruit is created after a few seasons when the grape vines have had time to mature and lay their roots deep into the ground. The ‘terroir’ of England is key.
You mentioned the word ‘terroir’ - what does that mean?
The terroir is a French word meaning the unique climate and soil conditions that all count towards the final quality of the wine. This is generally unique to that area and so specific to the vineyard’s wines.
This is why you will often hear the vineyards and winemakers speak of their unique terroir, it is a vital element to producing and identifying wines in general, not just English wines.
2. So when they dish out the prizes at wine shows how well does English wine do?
English wines are doing extremely well at all wine tasting competitions. Every year the vineyards get to enter their English wines at international and domestic competitions.
These wine competitions range from industry standard accreditation, for the quality of grapes and the wine maker’s influence/technique in producing wine - a stamp of approval, to winning awards in their respective class - best sparkling wine for example.
The English wines are entered into national and international wine competitions, so they’re up against the best wines from around the wine world.
3. Some people might say that putting a bottle of English wine on the table is just a snobby fad, how would you reply to this?
English wines have been produced for many years now which shows they’re no longer considered as a fad or merely an attempt at producing quality wines. The longevity and history of the English wine industry proves this.
English wines are award winning wines and have been for many years. This is supported by multiple restaurants choosing to stock English wines with some making English wine their house wines.
This is a clear indication of English wines quality and stature. Even the royal family are getting involved, the Queen has her own vineyard producing very sort after English sparkling wines.
At a state banquet held in Buckingham Palace Her Majesty the Queen has also served English sparkling wine. The choice for the evening was Ridgeview’s superb sparkling wine Grosvenor Blanc de Blanc 2009 to the Chinese Premier Xi Jinping on his visit to the UK.
4. Is English wine better than it used to be? If so, in what ways?
Absolutely, yes! As mentioned, the wine makers and vineyards have been producing International and English wines for some time.
This collective wine making experience has created its own sense of competition, an internal rivalry between the English vineyards and English wine makers. This internal English rivalry has resulted in better wine makers and wine producers.
Key to producing better English wines is understanding the terroir of that region/county. Quite simply the knowledge and experience of the wine makers/producers continues to grow and expand in influence. With every year the craft and experience in producing world class English wines increases resulting in English wines with greater depth and wider appeal.
I’m often reminded of a quote from William Shakespeare which is ‘Good company, good wine, good welcome, can make good people.’ – It would be interesting to see what he would have thought of the fine English wines being produced!
5. I always used to hear that England was too cold to produce good wine, we don’t get enough sun, was that simply a myth?
Well quite simply... yes, a complete myth!
It’s about using the right grape varieties for the English climate. The grape varieties used for producing white wine and sparkling wines - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir Precoce, thrive in the English soil and climate. They don’t need the intense sun, that southern Europe has, to ripen fully.
This is also why southern France and Spain produce deep intense red wines using grape verities such as Merlot or Chiraz. The sun and heat encourage the thicker red grape skins to mature into ripe full bodied grapes to produce deep intense red wines.
6. How long has wine been produced in England and where are the vineyards?
The very first grape vines were planted by the Romans, so you could say we’ve been producing English wines for over 2000 years! Although this didn’t last long. The modern English wine movement/industry has been going strong for 30 years now.
Due to ideal climate conditions for growing the grape varieties best for sparkling and white wines the majority of English vineyards are along the southern coast of England. If you were to draw a line from the top of Wales to the East coast of England, they’d all be below this line.
7. I am just an average punter and don’t want to spend a fortune for that relaxing glass of wine I sometimes look forward to at the end of the day. Are there English wines available which won’t break the bank?
English still wines generally range from £10 and upwards, Three Choirs Rosé is a great starting point. If you’re looking for an easy drinking English wine stick to the white and rosé wines available as these will always be of great quality and are generally more widely stocked.
8.This seems a bit more than the average on the supermarket shelves. What reasons can you give me to pay a couple of pounds more for a bottle of English wine?
I would say they’re different wines and so each has their own merits. English wines are produced with great effort to be unique in style and a quality representation of the vineyard. The terroir is what makes the wines individual. The attention to detail and great length the English winemakers and vineyards go to in producing their wines couldn’t be of a higher standard.
I think they’re worth spending that little bit extra on due to the uniqueness and rarity of the wines. English wine is in every sense a special product which cannot be replicated elsewhere. The English vineyards and English winemakers go to great effort to produce wines which are fine examples of their location and expertise in wine making.
9. Why should I buy English wine from the English Wine Collection on line rather than popping down to the supermarket?
The English Wine Collection is a dedicated English wine specialist. This means a unique range of English wines. The sole intention of The English Wine Collection is to provide the finest English wines available all in one place. This means you can shop for English wines and purchase from one bottle to many cases of wines.
We have selected the finest English wines to make choosing your wine simple and easy. We are also happy to answer any English wine questions you may have. There have been several occasions where you have asked about the 'perfect sparkling wine’, the ‘best English white wine for fish’ or even ‘can you recommend a wine for my mum?’ - and of course we’re happy to provide a personalised selection of wines just for you.
This has been key to providing the perfect wine list for weddings for example. We have even done several curated wine lists for business events too.
10. I want to splash out a bit for a special occasion, are there English wines that would fit the bill, if so, what would you recommend, say, as a present for my son who has just had a major promotion?
This is where English sparkling wines are perfect! From the exclusive range of Nyetimber sparkling wines to a rarer organic sparkling wine from Oxney Estate. English sparkling wines have enough depth and quality to be wonderful celebration wines.
11. I have visitors from Australia who really know their wines and think they have the best. What should I serve them to show English wines are up to the mark?
I would suggest any of the Ridgeview sparkling wines to start an English wine journey.
The white wines from London wineries ‘London CRU’ and ‘Renegade London’ are an assured conversation starter too! Red wines are notoriously harder to produce in our climate and so rarer in an English wine experience. I would suggest, however, Chapel Down’s Union Red or Sixteen Ridges Red - both are fine examples of English red wines.
12. My daughter is getting married next year. Persuade me as to why I should buy English wines for this occasion. What English wines would you recommend to serve at the reception, bubbly first then sit down meal and toasts?
English wines are perfect for a special occasion, especially a wedding. The sparkling wines are in limited supplies and have won many international wine awards for their quality and characterful notes. I would suggest starting with Gusbourne’s Brut Reserve - a wonderful English sparkling wine for toasts. Depending on the food course, try pairing either Lyme Bay’s Bacchus Block or Astley’s Sabrinna, both are quality English wines.
13. How natural are English wines? Are they organic? No nasty added chemicals?
Yes there are some organic English wines. They’re harder to find due to the requirement to control vineyard pests and the filtering processed used for cleaning wine.
14. Who are the people producing English wines? How corporate is the industry?
The majority of English wine producers and vineyards in England have been dedicated wine lovers and enthusiasts, although now as the English wine industry grows and larger investments are being made a sense of a bigger industry attitude is taking place to facilitate the growth and demand for English wines.
This is good news for the English wine industry as the investments help to facilitate more planting of vines which means larger harvests and so more English wine can be produced and enjoyed.
The focus is still on producing the finest English wines but in larger quantity and so being able to be enjoyed by more wine lovers to help support the rapid growth needed for the shortfall in the supply and demand of English wines.
This is not only a good sign of the support and strength in English wines, it also means the English wine industry is able to grow and meet the demand for English wines.
15. What are the benefits of buying wine produced from English vineyards?
The main benefit of buying English wines is for their unique character and wonderful examples of terroir. As mentioned previously, the terroir in the south of England is perfect for producing still and sparkling wines. The care and attention to detail that many of the English wine makers put into producing their wines is second to none.
So, with the perfect climate and soil conditions to make wines, along with world class wine producers, you are buying a unique example of that vineyard’s terroir.
This means the wines are identifiable and by purchasing a bottle of English wine you’re supporting a growing business and industry of wine lovers and wine enthusiasts who will be able to carry on growing grapes and producing world class English wines.
16. What types of English wines are available. Does it cross the spectrum? red, white, rosé, bubbly, still, sweet, medium, dry?
Yes it does. The range of English wines available covers all wine types and varieties. English sparkling wines have a broad range of flavours and are deep in character.
Their ability to pair well with fish and chips for example indicates a wine which has a certain amount of depth, body and enough edge to cut through the salty fish and rich batter flavours.
The only wine that English wines don’t cover is a desert / sweet wine. Although I have come across one before as a special one off.
17. My son will be 21 soon. I would like to start a wine cellar for him, partly as an investment. What English wines would you suggest I include?
I would suggest getting an extensive range of English sparkling wines. Any sparkling wine which is a particular vintage (year) is a good place to start. Nyetimber’s Blanc de Blanc 2009 or Ridgeview’s Blanc de Blanc 2013 are wonderful English sparkling wines.
Sparkling wines will be good to keep for some time too. They will mature and develop in quality whilst in the bottle. English white wines are best drunk young, although some white wines may last for a few years. If you’re interested in an English red wine I would suggest getting a bottle of Sixteen Ridges Red 2015.
18. I often see both English vineyards and English wineries mentioned what’s the difference between a vineyard and a winery?
A vineyard is where the grapes are grown and harvested/picked to make wine. The fields of a farm . It’s for this reason there are vineyards /farms that just grow grapes as a crop and then sell the grapes to wineries to make wine.
A winery is where the grapes are brought to be crushed and made into wine. The winery is where the wine is made and often stored in large barrels or casks.
19. We often associate sparkling wine with celebrations - can it be drunk more often though, as we do still wine?
English sparkling wine is a wonderfully versatile wine. It can be enjoyed as an aperitif, savoured on its own or shared between friends to toast an occasion. A great example would be for a private function or business event.
A good way to enjoy English sparkling wine is to have it at the start of a meal. Try with Parma ham, cherry tomatoes and lightly toasted bread or even just with crisps. Our favourite is with smoked salmon or other starter type snacks. Having a sparkling wine to start as an aperitif is a great way to get the taste buds tingling and tantalised before the main course.
English sparkling wine is perfect for many occasions, a sundowner, an aperitif before dinner, a drink to relax with after a hard day and of course, to celebrate with!
20. I would like to buy a bottle of English wine for someone who loves wine but hasn’t yet tried English wine - what would you recommend as a first English wine for them?
Well that depends whether it’s for a special occasion, a drink amongst friends or a quiet dinner at home for two! However, I would suggest any of the Ridgeview sparkling wines are a great place to start an English wine journey.
A great white wine choice would be Chapel Down's English Bacchus which is smooth and wonderfully crisp with fresh citrus notes. For a perfect rosé try Camel Valley Rosé for a crisp, light refreshing drink which is wonderfully delicate and light with summer fruit notes. For a red wine head towards Sixteen Ridges red. all are superb wines.
21. Who’s behind English wine, is big business involved or just small individual vineyards?
The people behind English wine range from passionate individuals such as the duo behind the English vineyard Wellhayes based in Devon to large corporate businesses with many millions of pounds of investment to spend on their English wine venture, such as the English wines made by Chapel Down who are listed on the London Stock Exchange.
22. Who governs the quality of English wine? Can anyone set up a vineyard and sell?
The quality of English wine is benchmarked against the finest wines from around the world. English wine is entered into many competitions such as the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships, where English sparkling wine is up against the best wines from around the world. Champagne, and other wines from around the world, have set the minimum quality standard that English wine must compete against.
23. What does the alcohol content of English wine tend to be? Does it vary? Is it different for white, red, rosé, sparkling?
The alcohol content of English wine is the same as any other wine that you would normally buy. This tends to be around 12% for both English still wine and English sparkling wine.
24. Where in the UK is English wine produced?
English wine is produced from vineyards throughout the UK. The majority of English wine is made from vineyards which are in central and southern England. The reason for this is to take advantage of the warmest parts of England which enable the English vineyards to produce ripe and fruit driven English wine. Grapes need warmth, sunlight, nutrients from the soil and limited rainfall to ripen and mature into desirable grapes to produce English wine from. The climate conditions that are best suited to allow the English vineyards to succeed and produce English wine are therefore based in southern England.
25. I am a red wine fan. Are there many English red wines produced? Are they “full bodied” English red wines?
Yes, there are plenty of English red wines being produced. Often harder to achieve, due to the thicker skinned grape varieties used for producing English red wine, they require more heat and sunlight to ripen fully. Due to the method of making red wines, the skin of the grapes needs to be in contact with the grape juice so that the tannin and colour are extracted. With England’s cooler coastal climate the English red wines that are being produced often display more summer red fruits and a smooth silky mouth feel. English red wines are therefore perfect for duck, light game dishes, chicken and some fish. The key is to think of the English red wines as a lighter style of red wine. A perfect pairing would be to match an English red wine with duck for example.
26. There’s been a tremendous upsurge in production and availability of English wine in recent years – what are the reasons for this?
The English wine industry has been flourishing since the late 80’s and grown dramatically since then. As English wine has increased in popularity so has the demand and this has resulted in more vines being planted and therefore more English wine is being produced. There is still some way to go but with many new plantings hopefully the supply and demand will even out soon.
27. Is quality being maintained in English wine?
English wine has won its fans and reputation on quality and its quality alone. The only way that a new world region, Such as English wine, can compete is by continually producing wines of quality that can compete on the international ‘wine world’ stage. If English wine was not producing wines of high quality it would not be able to grow and flourish. At the foremost of every English wine producers and English wine seller’s mind is quality. Quite simply they have to compete and win on the world stage otherwise there is no point. English wine has bene doing so for a number of years now.
28. Sometimes English wines are out of stock because a particular vintage of that English wine has sold out. Do the different years that English wine is produced in, vary of production of the same wines and differ in taste?
Yes. Each English wine vintage will produce English wines with slightly different characteristics than the previous English wine vintage. This is due to many factors including the weather and also the fact that as the vines mature year on year they will develop and increase their strength and produce grapes with different flavour profiles. A wine maker may also change their approach to making English wine in the winery too. The scope for producing English wine is very varied.
29. What is the demand for English wine from abroad? Is English wine being exported in any great quantity?
English wine is and has been gaining momentum abroad for some time. The winning of awards in Decanter has helped to raise the profile of English wine and also helped to show and establish that the quality is there for English wine
30. Is English wine worth investing in a few cases of something special?
If you come across an English wine that you are particularly fond of then yes. Due to the short supply of English wine it Is recommended that you buy any English wines that you’re keen on.
The English sparkling wines and some of the English red wines will have potential for ageing in cellar conditions. However, it is import to know that not all wines, including English wines, are suitable for ageing.
31. I am going to a dinner party next week. I would like to take some English wine. What would you suggest? Unfortunately, I don’t know what we are going to eat!
I would suggest taking a bottle of English sparkling wine. This will be perfect for having as a toasting wine and can even be enjoyed through the meal. English sparkling wine is very versatile and English sparkling rosé can even be enjoyed as desert wine.
32. My brother is just getting over a serious illness, I would like to give him a special bottle of English wine to celebrate. What would you suggest?
I would suggest buying a bottle of English sparkling wine. If you are unsure where to start any of the classic cuveés, the English sparkling wine standard, are a great option. Normally a blended English sparkling wine, they prove to be a great choice for any occasion. If you are hoping to really make an impression then pick a vintage English sparkling wine from Nyetimber, or Wiston. Alternatively a rare and prestigious English sparkling wine can be found in the Windsor Great Park English sparkling wine. Made from a vineyard in the Windsor Great Park and regularly served at Buckingham Palace, it’s sure to be remembered. Click here for English sparkling wine.
33. We are planning to go on a summer picnic/concert with a group of friends and will be eating things like smoked salmon sandwiches, chicken pieces, veggie bits. Any suggestions for an English wine to accompany?
If the English wines are to be taken on the day then an English rose wine or English white wine are both perfect choices. If it’s possible to have the wines arrive the day before, then an English sparkling wine is also a great option. Digby’s English sparkling rosé the Leander Pink, or Coates and Seely sparkling rosé would be a great place to start.
34. Are there any English dessert wines? I always like something with pudding.
The place to start for a desert wine would be an English sparkling rosé or English rosé wine. The English rosé wines are sweeter and so will be able to stand up to a sweet desert. The English rose from Off the Line are perfect.
35. I am going to visit a French friend in Paris soon. I would like to introduce her to English wine but feel she might be a bit sceptical. What would you suggest I take?
We have sent lots of English wine to France and even provided curated cases for wine tastings in France. I suggest starting with the English white wine from WInbirri, their Bacchus. The classic cuveés from Nyetimber or Wiston are great examples of English sparkling wine too.
36. What English wines would you recommend for everyday drinking?
English white wines are great for ‘everyday drinking’. Perfect for food pairings and also enjoyed on their own. Try any of the English wInes from Lymebay, Camel Valley or Chapel Down to start
37.Sometimes I just want a single glass of my English wine of an evening, rather than a whole bottle. Will it keep, opened, in the ‘fridge, for a couple of days?
Yes. As with any wine ensure that the closer is sealed with either the screw cap or similar so that the contact with air is kept to a minimum. Generally, once an English wine is opened it is best consumed within 2 days.
38.We are having a charity cheese and wine event and I would like to use English wine. What English wines would you suggest to go with cheese?
Stick to the English red wines from Pinot Noir grapes. Gusbourne, is a good place to start. WInbirri’s ‘Malbec style’ English red wines are also great when paired with food. Sixteen Ridges English red wine is also a superb example of an English red wine.
39. Is English sparkling wine as good as champagne?
Yes. English sparkling wine and Champagne are made in the same way using the same grape varieties. The only difference is a few hundred miles and the local terroir. England is host to some of the best wine makers who understand the English terroir perfectly. As such they are producing incredible English sparkling wines. The recent Decanter Platinum Awards stand for themselves.
40. What's the difference between English sparkling wine and sparkling wine from other countries, France, Spain, Italy etc.
English sparkling wine is made from using the same grapes as Champagne. This is also true for other sparkling wines from around the world. They will be made in the same way. The main differences are the local terroir. Champagne has very specific wine making requirements and also a micro climate. Whilst weather and local terroir conditions are different throughout the world the process of making sparkling wine and Champagne is the same. This is true for other sparkling wine regions around the world too. The process of making the wine is the same, the local terroir and wine makers are not, this is where the differences come in.
We hope you have found this English wine Q&A helpful. D If you have any other questions please send us an email to the email address below.
The English Wine Collection
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