English wine is growing in popularity and the UK is increasingly recognised as a premium wine producing country, with approximately 1,800ha of land under vine, more than 450 vineyards and around 3.15m bottles produced a year. Sales of English wine reached almost £100million by the end of 2015, with particularly high volumes at Christmas. The most popular grapes varieties grown in English vineyards include:
In December 2015, Champagne Taittinger announced it was buying a vineyard in Kent and would be producing an English sparkling wine. English sparkling wine has been highly praised for its quality, beating Champagne in some competitions and collecting a total of 130 medals and trophies in the 2015 Decanter World Wine Awards.
Inspired by the extraordinary life of the 17th Century philosopher, theologian, writer, pirate, inventor and 'father of the modern wine bottle', Sir Kenelm Digby, 'Digby Fine English' is a wine of distinctively English character.
Digby create long-term relationships with the best vineyards across English wine country (typically Kent, Sussex and Hampshire) to ensure a supply of only the finest quality berries.
Their focus is on Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, varieties proven to produce the most finesse. Time, care and patience goes into their rendition of the traditional Champagne method, which gently reveals the potential in each lot of pressed juice. They then pour themselves into blending, where they create the liquid pleasures that are unmistakably Digby.
Kenton Vineyard is the result of Jo and Matthew Bernstein's passion to grow vines and make quality wine in the English countryside. After extensive research into the realities of growing vines in England, Matthew swapped the intricacies of intellectual property law for a tractor suit and enrolled in the wine studies course at Plumpton College, East Sussex. They relocated to the South West in 1998, where they found the land at Kenton Vineyards ideal for vines - low, on free draining soil with a south facing aspect, and it is this ideal terroir that is represented throughout the vineyard's range of wines.
Kenton Vineyard offers Trails and Tours of their vineyard. Their guided vineyard and winery tour is open every Sunday afternoon in Summer. The tour lasts about an hour and is guided by a viticulturist and winemaker. A complimentary glass of wine rounds off the tour!
Wine tastings take place inside their wine shop with panoramic views of the vineyard. Wine by the glass is also on offer for those who would like to stay a bit longer and relax. For more information visit their website www.kentonvineyard.co.uk
Furleigh Estate is 85 acres of vineyard, lakes and grazing land surrounded by woodland. Four years of careful planning and investment has transformed the former dairy farm into a modern and productive vineyard and winery.
Over 22,000 vines grow on the south facing slopes of the Estate. 15,000 of these are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meurnier used to produce their classic quality sparkling wines. Bacchus and Rondo are also grown to produce fine still wines. A 5,000 square foot winery was built in 2007 and a temperature controlled cellar provides the ideal conditions to store still wines and mature sparkling wines on their lees, so as to develop the best flavours possible.
Furleigh Estate also offers guided vineyard tours lead by a knowledgeable guide. Tours include visiting the vineyards as well as the purpose-built winery. This is rounded off with a tasting of selected still and sparkling wines. Tours run at 2.30pm on Fridays and Saturdays and last around 90 minutes.
For more information please visit their website www.furleighestate.co.uk
One of the oldest English vineyards started back in 1973 when local wine retailer Alan McKechnie started harvesting the vines on his small fruit farm. With a little help from the 1976 record summer temperatures and a bumper harvest his small fruit farm continued to expand. Alan sold up in 1984 due to poor health and the small 1/5th hectare vineyard gradually grew to it's current size of 30 hectares.
The new owner John Oldacre invested heavily in the venture and Three Choirs Vineyards was born, the name coming from the local Three Choirs Choral festival held between the cathedral cities of Hereford, Worcester and Gloucester. In 1990 a new state of the art winery opened along with a visitor centre for the increasing number of visitors.
Today, nestled in the Forest of Dean and boasting an impressive 30 hectares of beautiful vineyards, Three Choirs is recognised as one of the largest commercial wineries in England.
Three Choirs offers various tastings and tours as well as a unique wedding and venue hire. For wine lovers there is an opportunity to adopt your own vine or spend a few days in one of their hotels or lodges based in Gloucestershire, offering spectacular views of the vineyard.
For more information regarding tours and venues visit their website www.three-choirs-vineyards.co.uk
The original Gusbourne Estate in Appledore, Kent dates back to 1410. In 2004, Andrew Weeber took over the estate with a clear vision and a single goal: to create English sparkling wines that would stand up alongside the very finest offerings from across the globe. The first vines were planted that year.
In 2010 the debut vintages of Gusbourne Brut Reserve 2006 and Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2006 were released to critical acclaim. Gusbourne quickly earned a reputation as a producer of outstanding quality wines, with accolades from some of the industry's most exacting critics. The Estate also produces quality still wines, their Pinot Noir being an excellent example.
Nyetimbers Vineyard is in the fortunate position of owning 100% of their vineyards and all their wines are produced from the 170 hectares they have planted at the best sites in West Sussex and Hampshire. Nyetimber's vineyards were the first to be devoted exclusively to the holy trinity of Champagne grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir.
A millennium might have passed since their name was coined as 'Nitimbreha', likely referring to a newly timbered house or perhaps a small timber plantation. But the most significant developments for this House have taken place in a single decade with their winemaking team among the most proficient in the world.
The Nyetimber is a beautifully reimagined 1968 Routemaster bus which offers a luxurious, quintessentially British setting in which guests can relax and enjoy a glass of England's finest sparkling wine. Attending iconic British events throughout the year, the Routemaster's lower deck offers a handcrafted wooden and copper bar while the upper deck offers beautiful open-air views as you drink. A 'Push for Nyetimber' button is all you need to press in order to replenish your glass!
For more information on events in 2016 visit www.nyetimber.com/the-nyetimber
Hidden in the heart of rural Sussex, one of Britain's most beautiful southern counties lies Bolney Wine Estate, a vineyard which carries on the tradition brought to Britain by the Romans nearly 2,000 years ago. Sam Linter, Head Winemaker says "I feel very privileged to have our vineyard situated in the lovely village of Bolney, in the heart of Sussex. The sandstone soil structure here is excellent for vines. We are very close to the A23 so accessible to visitors, whom we love to welcome to the vineyard. We have a wonderful vineyard café serving homemade, local food. All of this only 10 miles north of Brighton." English still wines have often struggled to generate the same excitement as their sparkling wine counterparts, but British Airways has gone some way to redressing the balance.
The 2014 vintage of Bolney Estate's Pinot Gris, (our price £15.99) will be served to first class passengers on all BA flights to and from the US throughout August. It is the first English still wine to be listed by the airline. 'It demonstrates the quality reputation that British wines are now receiving,' said Bolney's managing director, Sam Linter.
Bolney Estate also offers a variety of tours like the Grand Gourmet Tour (£42.50 per person) offering a tour of the vineyard and winery including a lunch and a tasting sesasion of 5 wines. There is also an Afternoon Tea Tour (£34.50 per person) and a more simple Taster Tour (£16.00 per person). Visit www.bolneywineestate.com for more information.
St George's is the home of The English Whisky Company. The beautiful distillery was designed and built by the Nelstrop family for the specific purpose of producing the very finest English Malt Whisky.
Why England and more specifically why Roudham, Norfolk?
There are only 2 main ingredients in whisky and Roudlam has both the purest, cleanest water in the Breckland aquifer (deep beneath the distillery) and Norfolk is one of the world's premier barley growing regions.
The only other thing needed to create the very best malt whisky is oak casks. No colour or other flavours are added - the barrels do that. English Whisky is batch made by hand, filled into casks and then left to mature until the distillers consider it perfect for bottling.
The Distillery also offers tours from as little as £10 which are run daily.
This tour includes a guide who takes you onto the distilling floor to explain how whisky is made before moving onto the warehouse to see the whisky maturing in casks. www.englishwhisky.co.uk/the-distillery/our-tours
What is so special about Somerset? Long recognised for growing apples to ferment, England has three "vintage" areas where the soil conditions and climate are deemed best for growing cider apples.All of these areas are in Somerset. At Burrow Hill, Somerset Cider Distillery is right in the middle of one of the best apple growing areas in England.
The first records of distilling Cider Brandy in England date back to 1678. In 1987 The Somerset Cider Brandy Company revived the tradition when they obtained the first commercial distilling license in English recorded history. Their two stills, Josephine and Fifi, are copper continuous tower stills and sit behind a thick plate glass wall, protected by customs and excise lock and seal. The design was patented in 1831 by Irishman Aeneas Coffey.
Tower stills behave like a series of pot stills, formed in a long vertical tube with layers of what is called "bubble plates". Made of two columns, the first has steam rising and a wash descending through several levels. The rising vapour, which is low in alcohol, starts to condense in the cooler, higher level of the column. The temperature of each successively higher stage is slightly lower than the previous stage, so the vapour in equilibrium with the liquid at each stage is progressively more enriched with alcohol.
You can visit the farm and distillery Monday to Saturday 9am -5.30pm. They also offer organised tours for small groups of people. Call Laura on 01460 240 782
For more information visit their website www.ciderbrandy.co.uk