Experimental English grape varieties
These are varieties which are only permitted to be grown on trial under control and supervision of the authorities. A typical example of these is Phoenix.
English and Welsh quality wines
It is important to make a clear distinction between the barely drinkable ‘British wines’, that are made from imported grape juice and the properly regulated English and Welsh Wines.
English wines originate from England and Welsh wines from Wales. The harvested grapes often have too little natural sugar and too much acid to make well-balanced wine. In common with other northern vineyards, it is permitted in Britain - according to strict EC standards - to add 3.5-4.5% of the alcohol through chaptalisation by the addition of sugar. In other words 7-9 kilograms of sugar is added to the unfermented must. This enriching process is known in Britain as amelioration. It is also permitted to add a little concentrated grape juice (the process known in German as Sussreserve) to the fermented wine to give it more roundness and a fuller taste. This is done with wines that are otherwise too sharply acidic. English and Welsh wines are mainly fresh and aromatic whites that are generally dry, ‘off dry’ (very slightly sweet), or medium dry. The bouquet usually has subtle floral notes. The greatest strength of these wines is their fresh and refreshing character. In addition to still whites there are also a few pink (rosé), red, and sparkling wines made. The sparkling English wines in particular are becoming increasingly popular. This is not at all surprising since a good Champagne is made from fresh white wine that is almost acidic, with subtle aromas. It was after all the English who made Champagne famous, even if it was invented by a French monk.
Recommended English wineries, wine-makers, and wines:
- Biddenden Vineyards, Biddenden (Kent)
- Lamberhurst Vineyards, Lamberhurst (Kent)
- Hidden Spring Vineyards, Horam (East Sussex)
- Carr Taylor Vineyards, Westfield, Hastings (East Sussex)
- Three Choirs Vineyards, Newent (Welsh Borders)
- Sharpham Vineyards, Totnes (Devon)
- Chiltem Valley, Old Luxters, Hambleden, Henley on Thames (Oxfordshire).
According to those in the know, Martin Fowke, the wine maker of Three Choirs, is a rising star in the firmament of not just English and Welsh wine but also of European wine.
Three Choirs has risen sharply in recent years to join the established order of Lamberhurst, Carr Taylor, Biddenden, and Sharpham among others.
The Late Harvest in particular (unique for the British Isles), Bacchus, and Siegerrebe look likely to be very successful.
The same Martin Fowke also makes an excellent red wine at the Welsh Glyndwr.
Mark Sharpham of Sharpham Vineyards has created much ado in recent years with his cask aged whites and reds. This is certainly a name to remember.