• For some years now, the English wine industry has been quietly toiling away, working hard to develop and produce wines that could compete on the international stage and firmly put England on the world wine map.  With the right climate, the Romans were able to successfully grow wine here, and it seems that the optimum conditions have returned with vineyards increasingly popping up across England producing a selection of stunning wines.

    The current flurry of production on UK soil has really been in development for over four decades, when the first modern commercial vines were planted.  Even then the changes in our climate were becoming apparent to savvy planters, and now there is real evidence from the Met Office that the last four decades have seen the earth warm at an accelerated rate.  The growing season for produce in the UK has also changed, with earlier springs and later autumns adding around a month to the usual period.  Most interestingly, the last 6 years have been the warmest since records began, which is why we are now seeing some of the best vintages coming from English vineyards.

    It seems the conditions, including temperature and chalky soil, make parts of the south of England ideal for producing sparkling wines to rival those of the Champagne region, as well as fine white and rosé wines.  Approximately 50% of wines produced in England were sparkling in 2010, with several international awards given to English producers in the last few years, beating stiff competition from the likes of Bollinger and Roederer.

    The more established wineries have of course had time to develop and craft their vines and wine production, and in turn help to showcase internationally what high calibre wines can be produced by English wine makers.  From Chapel Down and Nyetimber to Camel Valley, each has used their passion and enthusiasm, as well as the distinctive aspect and soil type of their estates, to create outstanding wines that are widely available through leading retailers and premium merchants.  Where they began other wineries are continuing with the likes of Hush Heath Estate, Coates & Seely and Gusbourne Estate competing on a global scale, winning awards and big commercial contracts.

    Of course, the Royal wedding in April this year certainly helped to turn the national spotlight on English wine and according to the organisation English Wine Producers the demand for English wines is certainly challenging if not completely outpacing supply, with interest expected to continue well after the Queen’s Jubilee and the London Olympics in 2012.  More and more vineyards are being planted to keep up with this demand, with 1,324 hectares under vine in the UK in 2010 compared with 822 hectares in 2000.  The average annual production of wines in England reached more than 4.05 million bottles in 2010, almost 114% more than in 2000.

    With the ideal conditions for production and such a high calibre of wines available, now really is the time to reap the benefits of our home grown grapes.

    A Camel Valley
    • First vines planted in 1989
    • Vines are positioned on sunny slopes near the Camel Rover
    • Run by Bob and Annie Lindo with their son, Winemaker Sam Lindo
    • Won such awards as the International Wine Challenge Gold Medal for their ‘Cornish’ sparkling wine, and the UK Winemaker of the Year award in 2010 and 2011.  Probably their proudest moment, and what is making English wine so great, was when Sam won Best International Traditional Method Sparkling Wine’ in 2010 in Verona, ahead of Bollinger and Roederer
    • Has a national following, available in such well known establishments as Rick Stein’s The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow and Hakkasan in London, as well as Waitrose and Fortnum & Mason
    • Visitors are welcome with organised tours, and an open terrace for enjoying wines by the glass
    • Produces ‘Cornwall’ Pinot Noir Rosé Brut, White Pinot Brut, Bacchus, Red Sparkling and much more
    • www.camelvalley.com
    • [Bodmin, Cornwall]

    B Nyetimber
    • First vineyard planted in 1988
    • Founded by Stuart and Sandy Moss to make sparkling wines that could compete with the best in the world, owned by Dutchman Eric Heerema since 2006
    • This corner of West Sussex shares the geology of the Champagne region in France, with a chalk seam and free draining greensand
    • The varieties grown are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier
    • Now more than 400 acres under vine and a production target of 1 million bottles per year
    • Sold in Waitrose, Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Fortnum & Mason and many independent wine merchants
    • Consistently won major international wine competitions chalking up 65 awards and trophies to date
    • Produces Classic Cuvée, Blanc de Blancs and Rosé
    • www.nyetimber.com 
    • [West Chiltington, West Sussex]

    C Coates & Seely
    • Founded by Nicholas Coates and Christian Seely, the English Managing Director of Axa Millésimes (owners of  Château Pichon-Longueville, Chateau Suduiraut and Quinta do Noval, among others)
    • Coates & Seely is looking to create outstanding sparkling wines that capture the essence of English climate and terroir, made with top class French winemaking techniques 
    • Developed Britagne as a a name of distinction for their Sparkling Wines  to create recognition on an international scalewww.coatesandseely.com
    • [Harroway, Whitchurch]

    D Chapel Down
    • The first vines at Tenterden were planted over 30 years ago and the vineyard has been making wines under the Chapel Down brand for more than 15 years
    • Grows grape varieties as diverse as Bacchus, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay
    • There are two vineyards with vines planted across 98 acres.  The first offers south-facing slopes on a free draining clay loam over sand soil and the second is ideal for Champagne style grapes with gentle south facing slopes and a high chalk content, good drainage and a glorious aspect. The remaining grapes are sourced from professional growers in Essex, Kent and Sussex
    • The sparkling wines spend up to 3 years on lees, “sur lie” as part of Chapel Down’s house style
    • The winery is open to visitors with a shop, restaurant and opportunities to tour the vineyards
    • Winner of several awards including a Gold Medal for the Rosé Brut at this year’s International Wine Challenge
    • www.englishwinesgroup.com 
    • [Tenterden, Kent]

    E Denbies
    • First planted in 1986
    • Produces approximately 400,000 bottles of fine wine per year
    • 265 acres under vine
    • www.denbies.co.uk 
    • [Dorking, Surrey]

    F Hush Heath Estate
    • First planted in 2002
    • Dedicated solely to Rosé sparkling wine
    • The Balfour Brut Rosé 2007 has been selected to serve to British Airway’s first class customers
    • www.hushheath.com
    • [Marden, Kent]

    G Gusbourne Estate
    • Family run estate
    • Grows Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes across 20 hectares of land
    • Produces three distinctive sparkling wines
    • www.gusbourne.com
    • [Appledore, Kent]

    H Ridgeview Estate
    • Founded in 1994
    • Grow Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier
    • Produce traditional method sparkling wines
    • www.ridgeview.co.uk
    • [Ditchling Common, Sussex]

    I Wyken Vineyards
    • Planted in 1988 on a south facing slope reckoned to have been the site of a Roman vineyard
    • There are 7 acres of vines
    • Wines include Bacchus and sparkling Moonshine 
    • www.wykenvineyards.co.uk
    • [Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk]

    J Wickham Vineyards
    • Six acres of vines were planted in 1984 after some Roman wine containers were uncovered on site
    • A range of grapes are grown including Pinot Noir, Rondo, Triomphe and Dornfelder for the reds and Bacchus, Reichensteiner, Faber, Wurtzer, Schoenburger and Kerner for the whites
    • www.wickhamvineyard.com
    • [Shedfield, Southampton, Hampshire]

    K Three Choirs Estate
    • Producing single estate wines since 1975
    • More than 250,000 bottles of wine produced each year
    • www.three-choirs-vineyards.co.uk
    • [Newent, Gloucestershire]

    L Bluebell Vineyard
    • Originally planted in 2005 with the first harvest in 2007
    • Mostly produces fine sparkling wines with the Classic varieties grown for Champagne including Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir
    • www.bluebellvineyard.co.uk 
    • [Uckfield, East Sussex]

    Where to buy

    English wines are catching on.  Here are just some of the national merchants and retailers selling a range of English wines:

    Private Cellar   
    www.privatecellar.co.uk 01353 721 999
    Averys   
    www.averys.com 0843 224 1224
    Waitrose   
    www.waitrosewine.com 0800 188 881
    Marks and Spencer 
    www.marksandspencer.com/Wine-Direct-Food-Wine 0845 609 0200
    Berry Bros & Rudd
    www.bbr.com 0800 280 2440
    Tanners
    www.tanners-wines.co.uk 01743 234500
    The Wine Society 
    www.thewinesociety.com 01438 741177
    Jeroboams
    www.jeroboams.co.uk 020 7288 8850
    Fine+Rare
    www.frw.co.uk 020 7089 7400
    Liberty Wines
    www.libertywine.co.uk 020 7720 5350
    Slurp
    www.slurp.co.uk 0208 993 7722
    Armit
    www.armit.co.uk 020 7908 0600
    Harrods
    www.harrods.com/food-and-wine 0845 605 1234
    Fortnum & Mason
    www.fortnumandmason.com 020 7734 8040

    Facts on wine production supplied by English Wine Producers (englishwineproducers.com) and the Wine Standards branch of the Food Standards Agency.  To receive a free copy of a map of Englush winemakers please email info@englishwineproducers.com.