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English Wine

The very idea of English wines would have caused a wry smile, if not a smirk, on the face of any lover of fine wine only a decade or two ago but that time is now firmly in the past. Wines from England now appear on the wine lists of top restaurants not only in Paris but further afield too. This is due in no small part to the recent trend for warmer summers with better ripening conditions but greater knowledge and skill allied to research and investment have also contributed to making wines which in some cases are really very good indeed.

nyetimber vineyard in sussex, englandThe majority of the total of 1600 hectares of vineyards is planted in the south east of England in the counties of Kent, East and West Sussex and Surrey with plantings also in the south west of the country and East Anglia, the latter benefiting from the lowest rainfall in the UK. At latitudes this far north it is no surprise that approximately 80% of the grape harvest is destined for white wine production with sparkling wine being particularly well-regarded. Nyetimber has the single largest vineyard holdings at 166 hectares in West Sussex and Hampshire. The number of wineries is now more than 100 with the Champagne grapes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier being the most widely planted varieties accounting for about 45% of the total area under vine, a figure which is due to increase dramatically as old vineyards are replanted with these two in-demand grape varieties performing well in chalky soils which are essentially the same as that found in the Champagne region itself. Hush Heath in Kent produces what some experts claim to be the best sparkling wine in England.

Most of the remaining 20% of the grape harvest is for the production of rosé wines from the two black Champagne grape varieties along with some Dornfelder, Rondo and Regent. Other varieties planted include Seyval Blanc, Müller-Thurgau, Reichensteiner, Ortega and Pinot Blanc. Most of these wines tend to be more expensive than their imported equivalents but it is English sparkling wines that fare best in this regard with fizz produced in England being comparable to similarly priced wines from the Champagne region itself. With even French houses from Rheims and Epernay rumoured to be looking to invest the future looks very bright indeed for sparkling wine production in England.

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