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English Wines Turning Heads

Fifteen years ago the English wine scene was a very different picture to the one it is today – and in the last five years it has started really turning heads. Before, we produced aromatic, elderflower-scented white wines using mostly Germanic grapes such as Reichensteiner and Muller-Thurgau, and a little Riesling: these were mostly crisp, dry and fruity “picnic” wines, some of them medium-dry, pleasant enough wines, a few aromatic and quenching, more than a few insipid and boring or eye-wateringly sharp; try biting into a raw gooseberry and you`ll get the gist. Historically red grapes have proven too difficult to ripen so far north, though a little has always been produced in the warmest sites, again mostly Germanic grapes, though a little Pinot Noir as well. Generally it was better to use these for rosé, though even more promising was the use of red and white grapes together to produce sparkling wines, because they require the natural high acidity England offers in such abundance; though also true that quite a few of these have, in the past, lacked character, being mostly the fruity-floral- type, or the sharp-sour-gooseberry type. And then there was Climate Change, investment and a new, bold approach. Nowadays our sparkling wines are winning awards, even competing head on with Champagne. These are indeed exciting times. With clever clone selection and our longer sunshine days we are now able to grow the Champagne grapes, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier; barely ripe these grapes are perfect for sparkling wine production. Try our Chapel Down English Rose from Kent, and the Hattingley Valley from Hampshire – both delicious aperitifs, pure and fresh, the Chapel Down a beautiful pale pink colour and the Hattingley Valley a lustrous yellow-gold. And you really must try Nyetimber, a richer style – arguabally Britain`s best. Also now England`s own Bacchus, a dry white Riesling-Sylvaner crossing with Muller-Thurgau grapes, better quality than ever before. Try Suffolk`s Giffords Hall, their Bacchus and rosé wines extremely well made. Let`s all embrace England`s new success story, and buy English wine…

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