June sees the return of English Wine Week, a wonderful celebration of the quality wines that are being made in the UK. Our week long focus will feature tasting events at our shops, by-the-glass specials in our bars and new wines to buy online. However we decided a week wasn't long enough to feature English wine properly, so we'll be celebrating English Wine all throughout June. So let's get to know the wines and producers and little better.
The UK is the 5th largest consumer of wine in the world, and over the last few years, our own home-grown juice has been getting more and more limelight - and deservedly so.
According to Wines of Great Britain, sales of English and Welsh wines have risen by nearly 70% in two years. In 2021, the trade was shifting a whopping 9.3 million bottles a year, with 38% sold at directly to visitors at the vineyards. The area under vine has also more than quadrupled since 2000, hitting 3,758 hectares. There are now 197 wineries operating across 897 vineyards.
Kent and Sussex is where you'll find the majority of the wineries where Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the most planted varieties, mostly for their use in Sparkling wines which make up 63% of English wine sold. While Bacchus is the most widely planted grape that is used in still wine and perhaps most emblematic of the aromatic, fresh and racy style that is part of English wines unique identity.
In 2021 English Wineries exported 4% of the wine they produced, and the biggest market for English wine is in Scandinavia, where the Norwegians have really developed a taste for our fizz.
So what is it about the vineyards that makes them so suitable for making wine and has it always been that way?
England has produced wine since Roman times. Due to the country’s cool climate and rich soils, many vineyards planted in the middle of the 20th century are now providing the ideal source for modern winemakers. The climate is moderated by the Gulf Stream, and the chalk-based soils in some areas are just the right kind for sparkling wine production. Additionally, due to global warming, new regions in England are becoming suitable for growing grapes as warmer conditions enable grapes to ripen fully.
One of the things we love here at Reserve about English wine is that it's not mass-produced. Many of the vineyards and wineries found across the country operate on a smaller scale due to the lower yield of grapes. A lower yield means a more labour-intensive production method. Of course, this does mean English wines tend to be a little pricier. But the wine you do get is really great quality.
In celebration of English Wine Week, which runs from the 17th - 25th June, we're delighted to be bringing some brand new wines into our range from two brilliant producers of English wine, Flint Vineyards and Harrow & Hope.
To help you get a better idea of who they are and what makes them special, we’ve put together a small introduction into both wineries and some of the stand-out wines they have to offer.
Flint Vineyard has been making wine since 2016 under the ambitious direction of winemaker Ben Witchell. Ben gave up a career in IT to pursue his passion of winemaking and after completing 3 year Viticulture degree at Pumpton college, and 2 years working in Beaujolais he teamed up local farmer and entrepreneur, Adrian Hipwell to begin the dream of Flint in Earsahm, Norfolk. Ben had identified the area as being one of the driest and sunniest and locations in the UK, with pockets of soil that were suitable for growing grapes and it just so happened that Adrian owned one of them. Their focus is on ultra-premium, low volume still wines, using the best fruit from their own and partner vineyards. They take a scientific approach and his dedication has led him to become recognised as one of England’s most exciting new wine producers.
Since then Flint Vineyard has flourished. There are now over 26,000 vines covering 6 hectares and a state-of-the-art winery allows wine production at the highest level.
Ben and his team are excited about the future and have plans to develop news wines and extend the winery and plantings. The idea is just to keep striving to be better and continue to produce ever more exciting and delicious wines.
We noticed the improvements they're making in the latest vintages of their still wines. The Bacchus Fumé 2022 is a seriously good wine that has a lean elegance to the apple, apricot and smoky nettle aromas while carrying a richness on a medium weight palate that carries through to a textured and mouthwatering finish.
Find out more about Flint including details of how to visit, over at: Flint Vineyard | Innovative English wine producer
Harrow & Hope
Harrow & Hope is a small family-owned winery in Marlow that produces world-class sparkling wine. The soil and environment of the Chiltern Hills are ideal for growing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. The winery is expensive to run but the team believes that the right equipment is necessary to get the best out of the grapes. The founder comes from a wine-obsessed family and has been passionate about winemaking from a young age. He and his wife Kaye started their first vineyard project in France before returning to England to start Harrow & Hope.
They have since built a dedicated team and have received help from family, friends, and experts in the industry. They were helped by Mike Roberts OBE from Ridgeview and Dr Tony Jordan, an Australian sparkling pioneer. Their philosophy in the vineyard is to help the vines express the character of their site in their wines working organically, focusing on building the natural biome and avoiding synthetic pesticides and herbicides.
Their 6.5-hectare vineyard is located on a Thames gravel terrace with a complex layer of clay, flint, and gravel where they grow Pinot Noir, while the Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier are grown further down the slope where the clay layer is thinner and there is pure chalk. In the winery they focus on preserving the quality of the fruit during the traditional method process. They have invested in a state-of-the-art winery and pay attention to every detail. Fermentation is done in small batches using stainless steel tanks and oak barrels and are increasingly using native yeast for fermentations.
All that effort comes together beautifully in their Brut Reserve No 7. Pure, fresh and elegant, it's an absolute belter with plenty of green apple and lemony citrus fruit, mingling with some apple pie and toasty brioche notes.
Find out more about Harrow & Hope including how to visit their vineyard over at: Home - Harrow & Hope (harrowandhope.com)
Discover our selection of home grown grapes here.