3 reasons to care about English wine
English wine is innovative, exciting, and quality focused. Many people believe it to be expensive, a bit of novelty and sometimes even question if it is actually good. Let me tackle these 3 misconceptions below.
1. English wine offers some of the best value on the market.
Let me give you some figures.
English (and Welsh) plantings cover 3,500 hectares, 770 vineyards, and 165 producers1. In 2018, we produced 13.2m bottles2. Now, given England is best known for its high quality sparkling wines, let’s compare this with Champagne. Champagne covers 33,281 hectares and produces 300 million bottles annually3.
Given the average spend on a bottle of wine in the UK is currently on £6.224, English wine may seem ‘expensive’. But remember, our growers and producers are small, and fighting not just climate variability and a crowded market, but also paper thin margins.
Spend a day with a good English grower or maker and you’ll see the amount of work, sacrifice, and care that goes in to producing these wines.
2. English wine isn’t a novelty
Novelty is defined as “the quality of being new, original, or unusual.”
Well, let’s start with the fact that English wine isn’t new.
The Romans brought grapes to the UK and spread them across the land. Whilst English wine production has faced changing fortunes, dropping as low as producing only 1,500 bottles in 19645, it has been around for a very long time. The renaissance of English wine began in the 1980s with the planting of Nyetimber, and today we see more and more vines being planted. It might feel new, but that’s only because you’ve not explored it properly yet.
Is it unusual?
In 2019, 72% of English wine production was sparkling. 98% of this was made using the traditional method (meaning, the same way as Champagne) and from the establish Champagne big three: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. In fact, 78% of English plantings belong to those 3 varieties6 So, I don’t think we can say the wine is unusual.
As for original, I like to think it is.
The more English wine I taste, the more I realise it has its own identity. The sparkling wines, whilst comparable to Champagne, have their own style and personality.
So, is English wine a novelty? Certainly not. We have history, heritage, and character. Growers are in this for the long term.
3. English wine is very good
“Is English wine any good?”
The existentialist and wine lecturer in me naturally wishes to engage you in a conversation about ‘What is good?’ but now is not the time or the place.
Put simply, yes, English wine is very good.
In my years judging at the Independent English Wine Awards I have seen not only quality increase, but also creativity and innovation. English wine producers are now exploring site and clonal selection. I recently had a long chat with Lyme Bay’s Managing Director James Lambert about their work into finding exactly the right Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for different sites. I was lucky to try 4 new wines, still in tank. Already these wines show depth, complexity, personality.
Without historic and ancient laws and rules, our producers are free to experiment and find out exactly what works. It’s a very exciting time for English wine. So, get on the bus and join the ride.
5Oz Clarke, English Wine From Still To Sparkling