English Wine – Is it a contender?

English Wine – Is it a contender?

It's currently English Wine Week, so what better time to ask the question? If I had been asked twenty years ago my answer would have been quite different to the one that I’ll give you today.

Over the past few decades, the English wine industry has experienced a remarkable transformation, evolving from a niche market to a burgeoning player on the global wine stage. Fuelled by a combination of favourable climate conditions, technological advancements, and a growing reputation for quality, English wines have captured the attention of wine enthusiasts and critics alike.

The English wine market encompasses a diverse array of producers, approximately 500 in all, ranging from small family-owned vineyards to larger commercial operations. The majority of the vineyards are located in the south, where the climate is milder and more conducive to grape cultivation. Sussex, Kent, and Hampshire have emerged as hotspots for wine production, with their chalky soils and maritime influence providing ideal conditions for growing grapes.

This has not gone unnoticed by a couple of the Grand Marque Champagne houses who clearly see a future (and dare I say profit) in the production of English sparkling wine. Pommery was the first to arrive in 2010 followed by Taittinger in 2017 cultivating approximately 90 hectares between them across southern England. They are clearly confident in the potential of English terroir to produce high-quality wines that can compete with those from more established wine regions.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the English wine industry's evolution has been the steady improvement in quality. English winemakers have embraced modern viticultural and winemaking techniques, investing in state-of-the-art equipment and enlisting the expertise of experienced consultants. As a result, English wines have garnered praise and recognition on the international stage, winning awards at prestigious wine competitions and earning accolades from critics.

The question of whether English wines are "any good" is one that warrants careful consideration. While opinions on wine are inherently subjective, there is ample evidence to suggest that English wines can indeed be of high quality and worthy of recognition.

But here’s the rub – With the help of a little global warming, we can now produce excellent sparkling wine and some really good whites but we’re not quite there yet with the reds.

For sparkling wine, acidity is of primary importance as this gives the wine backbone and the ability to age. Our climate is more than capable of ripening grapes giving plenty of acidity but what we don’t have is the guarantee of prolonged periods of pure, undiluted sunshine which is needed to develop the sugars and fruit. Not only can sugars be an issue but so too is Phenolic ripeness. To make a good red the tannins found in the skins, pips and stems need to ripen also, changing from bitter and astringent to softer, with a more rounded, ripe taste.

If we stick to cool climate varietals such as Pinot Noir and Dornfelder we can just about get away with it but don’t be looking for a hearty Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz from England for probably at least another 100 years!

The final criticism that is levelled at English wine is the cost.

Not only do we have far less land put to vines compared with other European wine producing nations but also, they don’t benefit from economies of scale. Very few of our producers have their own bottling facilities and most harvest by hand, making production very labour intensive and costly.

Many a consumer would probably buy English wine if the price wasn’t so punitive and you can’t really blame them for opting for a similar quality product from elsewhere in the world for considerably less of their hard-earned cash.

In conclusion, English wines are not only good but are also deserving of attention and appreciation.

We support the artisan baker; we like meat that is local or with provenance so why not drink wine where quality over quantity is the mantra.

Choose wisely with the reds, be curious with the whites and always celebrate with English fizz.

Cheers to the rise of English wine! Click here to browse our range.


Nick Walne,

Regional Account Manager

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