In recent years, there has been an increase in the production of high-quality sparkling wines in Great Britain, which encompasses both England and Wales. The success of British wines has been attributed to its terroir and cold environment. Here is a description of British wine.
Wine from England
The chalk limestone soils of Sussex, Kent, and other portions of southern England are suitable for growing the grapes used to produce sparkling wine, and particularly on south-facing slopes, the climate, at least in recent years, is warm enough. At the last official count, the Wine Standards Board reported that there were just over 450 vineyards producing wine throughout England.
- English wine is registered as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) in the EU and the UK. The term may only be used for wine produced in the conformation of the standards and using grapes grown in England at a maximum altitude of 220 m above sea level.
- English regional wine is registered as a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) in the EU and the UK. The designation is limited to wine produced from grapes grown in England, although production does not have to be within a certain area. The product must conform to restrictions regarding alcohol content, acidification, and sweetening.
- Sussex is registered as a Protected Designation of Origin in the UK. It is limited to wine produced from grapes grown in East and West Sussex. The wine should consist mainly of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes, normally produced at 12 tonnes per hectare (with a maximum of 14 tonnes per hectare). The wine is available as a still wine and a sparkling wine.
The most northerly commercially producing vineyard is in Leeds, Yorkshire.
“English wine” is also a common generic term used in India meaning “Western spirits”.
Wine from Wales
Welsh vineyards were first planted by Romans, and in the 1970s, modern vineyards were planted in South Wales to create Welsh wine. Despite a slow start, by 2005 Wales had 20 vineyards, producing 100,000 bottles a year, primarily white wines, but also a few reds. According to the Wine Standards Board, by September 2015, there were 22 operational vineyards in Wales.
- Welsh wine is registered as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) in the EU and the UK. It is to wine produced in Wales from grapes grown in the designated area, using prescribed methods. Products must use grapes from vines growing at a height below 220 meters above sea level. The product may be vinified outside of the designated area provided it is contiguous to Wales and prior authorization has been granted from the Food Standards Agency. The product must conform to restrictions regarding alcohol content, acidification, and sweetening.
- Welsh regional wine is registered as a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) in the EU and the UK. The designation is limited to wine produced from grapes grown in Wales, although production does not have to be within a certain area. The product must conform to restrictions regarding alcohol content, acidification, and sweetening.
In 2015 Scotland’s first home-grown wine was produced by Christopher Trotter, in Fife at a vineyard he started in 2012. One merchant described it as sherry-like with “nutty” notes, and thought that it might complement a “very strong cheese”. After four successive very difficult wet seasons, he abandoned and uprooted the vineyard in 2018.
The term British wine is used to describe a drink made in Britain by the fermentation of grape (or any other fruit) juice or concentrate originating from anywhere in the world. It cannot be used for wine in the legal sense, which must be produced from freshly pressed grapes. The most common style is a medium or sweet high-strength wine that is similar to Sherry and was formerly known as British Sherry.
The grapes used for producing British wine:
- Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier: These classic Champagne grape varieties are commonly used for producing English sparkling wines. The blend of these grapes results in wines with elegance, bright acidity, and fine bubbles.
- Traditional Method: Many English sparkling wines are made using the traditional method, where secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle, leading to complex flavors and aromas.
- South East England: Regions such as Sussex, Kent, and Hampshire are known for their exceptional sparkling wines. The soil composition and maritime climate contribute to the grapes’ high acidity and distinctive character.
- Bacchus: This grape variety has become a signature of English still wines. Bacchus wines are aromatic, often with notes of elderflower, citrus, and herbal undertones.
- Pinot Noir and Ortega: These grape varieties are also used to produce still white and rosé wines in England.
- Climate Advantage: The cooler climate of England contributes to wines with refreshing acidity and vibrant fruit flavors.
- Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier: These red grape varieties are frequently used for producing rosé wines in England. The skins of the grapes are in contact with the juice for a shorter period, resulting in pale and elegant rosé hues.
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