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English Wine - find out more

There was a time, not long ago, when as Martin Daly, from Time Out, points out, English wine was for "freaks only" - a product so biliously inferior that the only reason to drink it was to make some deviant supremacist point.  We sincerely hoped this still wasn't true when we started our research in order to cut food miles and change our wine habits from South African and Australian to something much closer to home.  Rest assured, if nothing has changed, we certainly will never promote bad wine as much as we will never promote bad food.  We've done our homework carefully.  

Denbies Wine Estate, England's largest vineyard, located in Surrey was established in 1986 and is one of over 400 vineyards in the UK today.  It's fairly typical of English Vineyards and their growing expertise and success.  With over 20 years experience, Denbies compete in International Wine Competitions and win plenty of awards for their wines. Their sales go from strength to strength as more and more people want to try English Wine perhaps because of the unacceptably high carbon footprint left from shipping and transporting wine from further afield.  So what is it that is changing and leading England to produce better wines than previously? 

Chris White, General Manager at Denbies Estate says: "English wines are not a joke anymore; we're a serious country and produce very high quality wines."  Very ironically this is mostly down to global warming and the hotter summers producing riper grapes which in turn produce less acidic and more flavoursome wines.  A warm September is key to a good crop.

Perhaps you still think of English wine as a bit of a joke or maybe you think the only good wine is good, French wine.  We want to tempt you to try English wine and give it a chance. 

We've been doing some amateur blind tastings with our amateur neighbours and our amateur friends.  We ourselves are not wine boffins though we would love to learn more and sound like the boffins of the TV.  However, we don't so please forgive our "amateur" view - or perhaps we need not apologise as our research has indicated that actually most people want a straight forward, understandable comment and nothing too pretentious.

We do drink wine regularly, we are discerning and we will send wine back from the table if it disappoints!  Our challenge - to discover (to be blunt), if drinking English wine is viable in terms of taste and price, with a view to help cut our food miles, or is it still not worth the money?  

Our mission is to bring you only the best English wines available, no jokes, no vinegar; just great wines without the hundred thousand miles or so an average box of wine will bring.

We have discovered and we are still discovering the following (we will add new things as we discover more over the coming month):

1.   Sparkling English wine is renowned throughout the world.  The soil and climate in Southern England is almost identical to the Champagne region.  Proof of this is that Denbies Greenfields Cuvee 2003, for example, which won a Gold and Best in Class in the International Wine and Spirit Competition in 2006.  Nyetimber Classic Curvee, is regularly rated more highly than leading champagnes.  English wines won more awards than any other country in the Sparkling category of the 2006 International Wine and Spirit Competition. Sparkling English wine really is of world class standard, can compete on the world stage and win International Acclaim; it is highly thought of.  Top chefs now offer classy English Wines too to in their top restaurants; for example the Ridgeview or the Chapel Down Sparkling (our favourite is marked with an (R) in the shop.  If you ever buy sparkling, you'll be pleased to buy English Sparkling!  We have put on some award winners - our Sparkling recommendation is the Chapel Down.

2.  You still need to be selective!  There are still "acidic (vinegary), skinny (what's that?), low alcohol (weak and watery), flavour challenged (tasteless) and occassionally faulty (really bad) wines" according to Jane Macquitty, Wine writer for The Times.  We will not sell you these!  As with our food, we will not put any product on that we think isn't good enough.  In fact, we are only sellling award winning wines as we accept these are probably the pick of the bunch for most people. If you, with us, select the best English wines as Jonathan Ray, wine writer for Daily Telegraph says: "We have a long way to go, but the best Englishwines are comparable to the best in the world."  Over time we will rate the wines based upon popularity at our English Cheese and Wine tasting parties.  We are starting the tasting process but we have not tasted all the wines yet; we have chosen the best from their award winning status and some from our tastings.  Our recommendation for white is our Chapel Down Baccus (non reserve) which we all loved.

3.  Reds are not as good as whites.  It is harder to make good red wine in our climate.  However there are some good vintages out there - Denbies 2003 Pinot Noir, resulting from the really hot Summer when temperatures broke the 100 F mark and a longer ripening period before frosts hit.  This wine won a Seal of Approval  at the International Wine Challenge.  We will be hunting out the best reds and only sell them if we and our friends would choose them next to our traditional past choices.  Watch this space.

4.  Organic wine - Making wine is a specialist craft.  Making organic wine is even more specialist.  Even experts who try to convert to organic have been known to have problems.  Roy Cook from Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard was the first man to make organic wine and has been doing so for over 20 years and won awards in English Wine Competitions against non-organic wines.  Try his wines on his website linked above .  As our customer levels and demand grows, we will be adding his wines to our site.  Please let us know if you buy from him so we can judge demand in the meantime.  You can also do voluntary work on the vineyard.


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