The Boom in English Wines: Explained
By Corkk Wines
English wine has changed dramatically over the last few years, winning many accolades and international awards, including 155 medals at the 2020 Decanter awards. With over 700 vineyards in the UK, producing up to 15 million bottles of wine per year, as Oz Clarke put it, England is the newest of the New World wine regions.
It is a far cry from 30-40 years ago when our wines weren’t so well received, when the general opinion that it was overpriced and tasted like vinegar. Thankfully all this has changed!
A little bit of history first. Not many people know that English Winemaking has a very rich and interesting history, dating back to when the Romans first came to England (it is believed that it was Julius Caesar who brought the first vine to England). During the Middle Ages there is evidence to suggest English wine was a big part of English culture, there are even records that confirm there were around 46 vineyards dotted around East Anglia, Sussex, and Kent. By the Tudor reign this number increased to over 140 across England and Wales, 12 of them were owned by the Crown. Fast forward to the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries there was a lot of experimenting when it came to English wine, with English winemakers trying different grape varieties, flavours, and textures.
There was a huge decline of vines growing during the beginning of the twentieth century and leading up to the Second World War. However ,after the war, two men who are thought to be pioneers of re-establishing the English wine industry, started to discover revolutionary ways to grow vines. Their names were Ray Barrington Brock and Edwards Hymans. They both researched into the different grape varieties, and the best ways to plant them well in England. They inspired famous English winemakers such as Major General Sir Guy Salisbury-Jones, who established a vineyard at Hambledon (north of Portsmouth), he planted 4,000 vines on a 1.5acre site in 1952-1955. The wine he made was the first to be made and sold commercially across the U.K after the Second Word War and he had a great belief that England could produce superb sparkling wines.
Fast forward and he has proven to be absolutely correct, so much so Taittinger, the famous Champagne House, has planted 60 hectares in Kent to start producing a sparkling wine, which will be released in the next few years. Why? There are a whole number of factors, including the terroir in Champagne goes under the channel and pops up in Kent and Sussex (although we make excellent sparkling wines not just on chalky soil – just look at Gusbourne, their Blanc de Blancs winning platinum at the 2021 Decanter Awards), our climate is warming and because our winemakers are highly skilled.
As our winemakers become more skilled, they are increasingly turning their hand to still wines, with our Chardonnays winning international awards, such as Simpsons Roman Road Chardonnay (Best in Show at the 2020 Decanter Awards) and the Bacchus grape is our answer to a Sauvignon Blanc and the creativity of our winemaking is reflected in this. If you take the Bacchus grape, you can now drink a Bacchus Fumé from Hidden Spring or an Orange Bacchus from Litmus, as well as stand out wines from the likes of the Whitehall and Flint vineyards.
Overall, English wine is becoming a very serious business, with state-of-the-art wineries opening up, such as Defined Wines just outside Canterbury, who make the wines for many vineyard owners who don’t have the facilities, hectarage that has quadrupled in the past 10 years and it is forecast that English wine will be worth £1billion annually within 20 years.
Corkk is an English wine specialist, where every wine is selected by their Master of Wine, Clive Barlow, who filters their selection to discover the best wines of their type. Through his experience and knowledge, Corkk choses distinctive, characterful wines, often from small artisanal vineyards which will lead to a journey of discovery.
In a recent customer survey, the three key reasons why they buy English wine is to support local producers, to try something new, and for its quality. We strongly believe that English wine is all about taking our time, savouring the finer things in life, and supporting our local highly skilled winemakers. Our approach to selecting our wine reflects this. We are not mass market, we are about selecting the best.
We're pleased to be able to offer all Winesdirect members an exclusive 7% discount code to use at Corkk now, so you have a chance to enjoy some fabulous UK grown wines for less.
Updated 23rd August 2021