There are roughly 405 vineyards in England who produce around 4 million bottles annually which is miniscule compared to the big players such as France, Italy and even Chile. The grapes grown range from your household names such as Chardonnay to more unknown varieties such as Regent, for a full list check out the English Wine Producers site here.
But really the best way to understand a new wine range I believe is to get in there and get your hands dirty, a.k.a tasting! So recently on a trip to Borough Markets I decided to stop in at the Wine Pantry on Stoney Street. This small ‘pantry’ type wine shop is 100% dedicated to England’s finest. I guess you could say they are English wines number one fan. The best thing is that they have an enomatic machine, so at any time you visit you can taste up to 20 different pours at a great price (£5 for 6 tasting samples).
The Wine Pantry is in an ideal spot to perch yourself at one of the old barrels on the sidewalk to watch the commotion of Borough markets as you sip a glass of wine and nibble on a meat and cheese platter. Not knowing a lot about English wines I found the staff extremely friendly and informative. They actually guide you through the tasting, starting off with finding out what sort of styles you want to try and then explaining a bit about each wine as you try. The perfect introduction to English wines.
So, what did I end up trying??
1. Avonleigh Rose 2009, Wiltshire
Hailing from an organic vineyard this Dornfelder & Triompe d’Alsace blend is a beautiful pale watermelon colour in the glass. It had a fairly shy nose of subtle strawberries and vanilla, which followed through onto the palate. Let me just emphasis the SUBTLY again…. Simple and charming.
2. Giffords Hall Rose 2010, Suffolk
Now this is more up my alley. It is a Madeleine Angevine & Rondo blend with copious amounts of acidity – but in a good way. The peach colour on the eye and the seductive nose wont let you go without making it to home base… And boy does it not let you down there either with notes of white flowers, raw sugar and pink grapefruit. It’s one of those ‘just one more sip please’.
3. Camel Valley Darnibole Bacchus 2010, Cornwall
100% Bacchus, the Darnibole refers to the tiny area where the grapes are grown for this tipple. Cornwall is a sunny area of the country and you can tell with this wine exhibiting not only citrus fruits but also a hint of tropical fruits. The palate is a mix of passion fruit and grapefruit. A lovely balanced wine, which would do wonders, matched with a summer meal of fish.
4. Breaky Bottom John Inglis Hall Cuvee, 2006, East Sussex
I have to admit I was excited about trying this one as I have heard so much about English sparkling and I’m glad to say it didn’t let me down. Made from purely Seyval Blanc this beauty is delicately creamy with a zesty refreshing backbone. It’s one of those wines that makes you stand back and say, this is a well made wine no matter whether you personally like it or not. I believe I am in the like category though!
5. Strawberry Hill ‘Montpellier Red’ 2009, Gloucestershire
The nose on this Regent & Rondo blend are one big royal feast of vanilla, chocolate, dark berries and black pepper however the palate was a bit watery for my liking and left me rather disappointed sadly.
6. Three Choirs Vineyards Pinot Noir 2010, Gloucestershire
Other than the notes of sweet stewed plums this goes into my ‘English things I won’t be trying again box’ alongside the reality TV program – The Only Way Is Essex. Thank-you but no thanks.
Like any countries wines you find some you like and some you don’t like. My experience at the Wine Pantry has ignited an interest in English wines I didn’t really have before, so I am sure they will be seeing me again soon. Bring on the sparkling I say! For more details on the Wine Pantry, please click here.