British Wine. Is That Really A Thing? Well...Yes
The world of wine is one steeped in history as we’ve been enjoying it for hundreds, even thousands of year. It’s gone from being a drink associated with the elite to a firm favourite amongst the masses. Even those who aren’t particularly well versed in wine or those who don’t enjoy drinking it themselves have some degree of knowledge about it. Whether your knowledge only stretches as far as knowing there’s red and white wine and that there's ‘one in between’ called Rose, or maybe, you’d know if someone asked you to name a famous wine growing country, answers such as French wine, Italian wine or Australian wine would all be perfectly correct answers. However, would the UK be a country that you’d include in that list? Here we’re going to explain why that might be a mistake and why the UK should be considered a legitimate and really rather good producer of wine.
It hasn’t always been this way. For a long time supermarket shelves were dominated with wines from the more traditional wine producing nations. However, as popularity increases and as the climate changes there are now so many more options when it comes to growing grapes and more and more countries are achieving great results.
Climate change affecting wine, for the better
Climate change is certainly a component in the UK’s rise as a wine producing nation - especially in the south. Warmer summers and milder winters are enabling grapes to grow in almost optimum conditions. Cold climates are the worst for growing grapes and a hard frost is a crop killer - a cold snap can quickly make grape vines lifeless. Here, in the UK, especially in the south of England, those prolonged periods of cold, frosty weather are becoming rarer and rarer.
France and south England - our soils are alike
There is another reason that the UK is becoming a real contender in wine growing, especially sparkling wine, and that’s due to the soil. At one time, England and France were one landmass and therefore the soil found in the South of England especially, isn’t too dissimilar from the soil found in the wine growing regions of France. If they were still joined today, the Champagne region of North East France wouldn’t be too far away from Home Counties such as Surrey, Hampshire, Kent etc. The soil in these regions is considered chalky which is a desirable attribute for producing premium sparkling wine. And in terms of climate, the south of England and the North of France share an almost identical climate with warm summers that aren’t too hot and milder winters. These warm summers cause grapes to grow slower but well developed. This slower rate of growth makes the grapes taste more complex which, when produced into wine, makes for a wine full of flavour and interest.
Wine growing isn’t limited to England, throughout the UK you’ll find award winning vineyards such as Llanerch vineyard in Wales. Their range of rose, white and sparkling ‘Cariad’ wines are award winning and this is a common thread across the UK with more and more vineyards springing up every year. At the end of 2020 there were 178 wineries operating in the UK. This equates to an increase of seven wineries compared to the previous year and 88 vineyards more than in 2005 when the lowest number of vineyards was recorded; this number is sure to rise over the coming years.
British wine, a booming industry
Needless to say, the wine industry in the UK is certainly booming. The industry has grown robustly in recent years, largely due to increased demand for English and Welsh sparkling wine. Wine GB claims that the number of acres planted with wine grapevines in the UK grew by more than 150% over the ten years through 2019. According to Wine GB, a record 3.2 million vines were planted in England and Wales in 2019, up from 1.6 million in 2018 and that number is sure to grow.
The key takeaway here is that traditional wine growing nations will always produce consistently great results and should remain part of the conversation when talking about high quality wine. We’re not saying you should never drink French or Italian wine again - far from it. However, premium wine maybe closer to home than once thought and it’s well worth trying. It’s always great to support local, even if purely out of curiosity and you never know, you may find your new favourite bottle of wine is made just down the road.
Discover, browse and shop GUSTATORY's Bottleshop, in which we focus on organic and low intervention wines and cater for a wide range of pallets. Available from producers around the world, you'll be sure to find British winemakers included.
GUSTATORY (adjective): curating excellence in taste.