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Enjoying the wines of England

When you think about great wine nations, the likes of France, Italy and New Zealand might spring to mind. England almost certainly won’t be top of your list. However, this small north European nation has a burgeoning wine industry, and a history of wine production dating back millennia.

Adgestone Vineyard
Adgestone Vineyard

When you think about great wine nations, the likes of France, Italy and New Zealand might spring to mind. England almost certainly won’t be top of your list. However, this small north European nation has a burgeoning wine industry, and a history of wine production dating back millennia.

According to the UK government, sales of English wines are expected to top £100 million this year, and there are now nearly 500 vineyards across the UK. English sparkling wine is particularly highly regarded and it is often likened to champagne because it is grown in very similar soil conditions. You can find some fantastic sparkling wine options at Tesco Wine. So, if you’re keen to take a tour of wineries, why not book a trip to this country to sample some of its finest beverages?

Harvest at Hambledon Vineyard
Harvest at Hambledon Vineyard

A potted history

Wine making is certainly nothing new in England. In fact, some people believe its production dates right back to Roman times. The Romans certainly enjoyed drinking the stuff while there. However, what is beyond dispute, is the blossoming of wine making after the arrival of the Normans. In the Domesday Book of 1085-6, there are records of vineyards in 42 locations.

There is also evidence of noblemen experimenting with growing grapes, and creating wines in the 18th and 19th centuries. By the late 19th century, the Marquess of Bute had established a vineyard on a commercial scale at Castell Coch in South Wales.

While there seems to have been a gap in production from the end of the First World War to shortly after the end of the Second World War, the industry was then re-established by a small number of innovative individuals. Once crucial figure was Ray Barrington Brock, a chemist who conducted research into the varieties of grapes that would grow well in Britain. Since this point, there has been a rapid rise in the number of vineyards operating in the country.

Where to go to enjoy a top tipple

The good news for wine lovers visiting England, is there are plenty of top-quality producers that offer accommodation on site. This makes the country ideal for a vineyard tour. Adgestone on the Isle of Wight is a great example. Covering ten acres, it produces a white müller-thurgau, a sparkling made seyval blanc and a rondo red.

On the mainland, Camel Valley in Cornwall is well worth a visit. This vineyard has been scooping awards for its beverages, which include a pinot noir rose. With 82 acres, this is one of the largest producers in the country. Meanwhile, further north in Yorkshire you’ll find Ryedale Vineyards. In fact, this is the most northerly commercial vineyard in England, and it specialises in producing organic white and rose wines.

England might not be well-known for its wine production, but it’s something of a dark horse when it comes to these sophisticated tipples. It’s certainly well worth checking out the wines on offer there.

Image by Fareham Wine

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