Up until relatively recently English wine was considered a staple joke of sitcoms, a byword for rough, borderline-undrinkable booze that was a last resort at dinner parties. All that has changed dramatically in the past decades, and now English wine’s amazing quality is being celebrated with English Wine Week (June 19-27).
Free in-store tasting of Artelium Wines
On Friday June 25 at 5pm we are delighted to welcome Elenor McIndoe, sales manager of Artelium Wine, who will be pouring a selection of the producer's fantastic English wines. Artelium is an artisanal wine producer based in the Sussex countryside, where they create fine English wines using traditional methods.
Like many, Artelium felt a responsibility to minimise the impact on the environment and maximise the contribution to environmental conservation and biodiversity. So the first vineyards, planted in 2018 and 2019, based in Streat on the border of East and West Sussex just north of the South Downs, was seeded with wildflowers, including red and white clover and camomile sown between the rows of vines.
Ellie will be happy to pour some wine for you and discuss the future of English wines at this in-store event. All you have to do is turn up at the store and bring your thirst with you!
Here are some of the wines Elie will be bringing:
|Artelium Curators Cuvee 2014, Sussex, England, £37|
|Artelium’s 2014 Cuvée is a careful curation of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier; hand-picked from a single vineyard and created by celebrated winemaker Dermot Sugrue. Fresh and graceful, this traditional method wine has been aged for over 60 months on the lees bringing depth and maturity. At Artelium we work with artisan winemakers to craft exceptional fine English wines from grapes we grow in vineyards across the South Downs.|
|Artelium Maker's Rose 2015, Sussex, England, £37|
|Artelium’s 2015 Rosé is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier; hand-picked from a single vineyard and skilfully made by celebrated winemaker Dermot Sugrue. This traditional method wine has an intense strawberry colour, is bold yet nuanced with a rich depth of red fruit flavours. This fantastic wine won a gold medal at the International Wine Challenge with 95 points.|
Why English wines are having their moment
In 2015 the English wine industry won 130 medals at The Decanter World Wine Awards. The best of the bunch also earned over a dozen gold medals at the International Wine Challenge. English wine then started to appear on the wine lists of the fanciest restaurants and dining rooms in Britain – even sometimes in Europe. Gordon Ramsay took great delight in announcing he was serving English sparkling wines at his new restaurant in Bordeaux, Le Pressoir d’Argent. “We had to include English sparkling wine,’ Ramsay said. We haven’t had a riot yet’. Ramsay’s fellow TV personality Oz Clarke has devoted a whole book to English wine.
Champagne houses getting in on the act
Not only that, a real sign of how seriously English wine is being taken is the fact that some French Champagne houses have started to invest in English property. In 2017, Domaine Evremond, a nascent project from the Taittinger house, began planting vines in Kent, and Pommery partnered with English producer Hattingley Valley in 2016 to take advantage of the Hampshire region’s terroir.
If Champagne is so special because of its soil and climate, the same can be said of English wine. The chalk soil that makes Champagne’s grapes so iconic actually runs north, under the Channel and up into England’s south-east coast – think the white cliffs of Dover. This chalk soil is crucial because it’s the perfect soil for grapes to grow in. Water drains away, the ground stays warm at night and the nutrients give the vines all they need.
The vineyards are based mostly in Sussex, Kent, Surrey and Hampshire and a few in East Anglia, Dorset, Wales and Cornwall. In the past few decades they have ripped up the vines that were there before – or sometimes even cabbage or potato fields – and planted the same three grape varieties that make Champagne so special. So Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, to achieve the same blend as the great Champagne houses. These replaced many of the older varieties, but actually the widest-planted grape variety in England is Bacchus for a quality still wine. There is also some planting of Pinot Noir for still wines as well as sparklies.
Then there’s the good old British weather. It’s a national pastime talking about the weather, but the fact is the cool English climate gives a long ripening season, which is perfect for slowly producing the grapes for a fizz. Acidity levels are high, alcohol levels usually low, perfect for making some world-class sparklers. The south of England is usually slightly warmer than the rest of England, but rain during the growing season can make rot a problem sometimes. The summer of 2012 was a disaster, with constant rainfall throughout the summer. Some producers produced not a single drop of wine. Summers after 2012 got better however, and some have produced bumper crops in terms of quality.
So England has the soil, the climate and an increasing market for its wines, helped by the many awards it keeps mopping up. It has all changed since 1952, when the first commercial vineyard was planted at Hambledon in Hampshire.
And English wine week is just another push towards gaining a reputation for its world-class wines.
Here is our selection of English wines, which we are proud to stock:
|Furleigh Estate Classic Cuvee Brut, Dorset, £31|
A classic dry sparkling wine with a refined elegance. The colour is pale lemon straw with a steady stream of minute bubbles. It has appealing floral aromas of apple blossom interlaced with ripe melon, pear plus a delicate thread of minerality. On the palate the fine mousse marries citrus flavours of grapefruit and Sicilian lemon with a crystalline structure and zesty acidity. Excellent poise and a persistent finish.
The producer says: “Classic Cuvée is our signature, vintage, sparkling wine. A taste of the sunny, West Dorset countryside, not far from the Jurassic Coast. Made from our own grapes, at our own winery, near Bridport. We believe it requires long, patient cellaring to create an elegant, fine mousse, smooth texture and rich flavours. Made from Champagne grapes, but definitely from Dorset!”
A blend of 40% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 30% Pinot Meunier. Aged for three years minimum before release, including at least 24 months on lees.
|Court Garden Ditchling White 2018, £16.99|
Court Gardens Farm vineyard was established in the spring of 2005 on a beautiful south-facing slope with the South Downs as a backdrop and is now one of the more charming vineyards in England. The family-run single-estate vineyard now extends to 17 acres.
|Ditchling Red Pinot Noir Vintage Court Garden England 2019, £16.99|
|A soft and fruity red. Smooth acidity and light tannic structure with warming red fruit aromas with lots of blackcurrants, cherry and spice on the palate.|
|Court Garden Vineyard & Winery Rose Brut, East Sussex, England 75cl, £31|
|Sparkling Rosé, made with a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. Very pale peach hue, frothy; dried cranberry; nicely defined red fruit flavours, lively acidity balancing creamy mousse and good weight, balanced, savoury finish with a brioche character. Lovely on its own or with perhaps a few canapés, some charcuterie or smoked fish.|
|Court Garden Vineyard & Winery 'Classic Cuvee' Brut, East Sussex, England 2015, £30|
|A classic blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. It has a pale silver lime-leaf green appearance, with continuous small bubbles. It is toasty, with under-ripe pineapple and greengage fruit behind; brut-style, balanced with creamy mousse and great freshness, and a long finish. This wine is brilliant as an aperitif on its own or wonderful paired with seafood.|
|Woodchester Valley Bacchus £17.99|
|Woodchester Valley Vineyard was first planted in 2007, starting with a single acre plot in Amberley in the Cotswolds. They specialise in estate-made wines, having built their winery on site in 2016. This single-varietal Bacchus comes from fruit harvested across all three of their vine sites at Amberley, Dovehill and Woodchester. The blend of Bacchus, created by winemaker Jeremy Mount, is a very fresh and fruit-driven style that will rival the finest Sauvignon Blanc.|
|Woodchester Valley Culver Hill 2017, £14.49|
|A blend of Seyval Blanc, Ortega Bacchus and Pinot Gris grapes, this dry wine has an intriguing blend of stone fruits and a delicate hint of minerality. A perfect accompaniment for classic fish and chips, vegetable tarts and chicken dishes.|