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!

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 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 west 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.

    These are wonderful examples of English sparkling wines.  Alternatively the special release of Chapel Down’s ‘Kits Coty’ would be a great choice or any of the Nyetimber sparkling wines.

    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.

    The English rosés are delicate and fresh with wonderful fruit driven notes, try Camel Valley’s Rosé for a perfect example of an English rosé.

     

    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.

    Despite the various pesticides used for protecting the vines, there are some exceptions, try Oxney’s organic sparkling wine and Trevibban Mill’s still wines.

     

    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.

    I hope you have found this English wine Q&A helpful. Do let me know if you have any other questions, I’m always happy to help,

    Guy

    The English Wine Collection

    Email me at: guy@theenglishwinecollection.co.uk