Raising a glass to English Wine Week
There was a time when you’d be met by a look of half-hidden horror if you offered your dinner party host an English bottle of wine. Then the climate got a bit warmer, and local wine growers became savvier, and suddenly English wine was winning international awards – and developing a growing fan base at home and abroad.
This started with sparkling wine. Based in Kent, Chapel Down is the UK’s largest wine producer – and we love that they stock eto in their shop. Most of its vineyards are in the North Downs, and with south facing chalk soils that offer a similar terroir to the Champagne region, perhaps it’s not surprising that their sparkling wines won such acclaim.
But British wine producers didn’t stop there. With the climate continuing to warm, they used their expertise to enhance the complexity and quality of still wines. While Bacchus and Seyval grapes have traditionally grown well, producers brought in new varieties such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier which complement the chalk-rich soil. And their efforts have paid off. The English wine industry is both thriving and growing fast.
As the 17th June marks the start of English Wine Week, we are sharing some of our favourite English producers to help you decide which wines to try. And don’t forget – if you only want a glass or two, you can preserve the rest of the bottle by decanting it into eto and storing in your fridge.
Albourne Estate, Sussex
Albourne Estate is a boutique vineyard and winery overlooking the beautiful South Downs, just eight miles from Brighton. Established in 2010, it is owned and run by Alison Nightingale and Nick Cooper, a husband and wife team who are passionate about creating great wine in a sustainable way. They use green energy throughout their winery and estate and are striving to become a fully carbon neutral business.
Albourne stands out amongst British wine producers by offering a delicious variety of ‘cool climate’ red, white, and rose still wine. We’re really enjoying the White and Red Pinot Noirs right now.
Albury Organic Vineyard, Surrey
Albury’s founder Nick Wenman has been committed to organic and biodynamic farming principles since the vineyard was established in the Surrey Hills in 2009, and the natural preparations and compost he insists on provides a welcome habitat for birds, bees, flowers and frogs. The thriving wildlife and friendly set-up makes Albury a great place to visit – you can enjoy a bee-keeping demonstration from local bee-farmer Sergio in between enjoying a glass of organic wine.
Albury’s collection of wine is predominately sparkling but they do offer two very interesting still wines. The first is Linda’s Pinot. When Nick first started the vineyard, he planted three rows of Pinot Gris for his wife Linda. Linda harvests these beautiful dusky pink grapes every year and creates a still white wine in the good years. The second is the Silent Pool Rosé – named after the Silent Pool gin distillery located next door to Albury. An elegant, dry rosé with subtle summer fruit ‘strawberry and cream’ flavours, it’s perfect for the Wimbledon season!
Albury Organic Vineyard and Linda's Pinot 2020
Sixteen Ridges, Herefordshire
The Sixteen Ridges vineyard is set within an ancient ridge and furrow field to the west of the Malvern Hills near Ledbury. It’s south facing aspect and natural amphitheatre shape provides the perfect environment for their multi-award-winning Pinot Noir to thrive. All the Sixteen Ridges wines are produced at their winery in nearby Ledbury, where award-winning wine maker Simon Day seeks to challenge convention at every stage of the wine-making process.
Best known for helping create the award-winning cider Once Upon A Tree, Simon is now producing wine made purely from Pinot Noir. While it is considered one of the most difficult grapes to grow, Simon uses his experience from Three Choirs Vineyard, Denbies and Lamberhurst. We particularly love Sixteen Ridges Early Pinot Noir. Round and fruity with hints of spice, it goes brilliantly with a slow-roasted pulled shoulder of lamb.
Poynings Grange, Sussex
Poynings is a small vineyard in the South Downs close to Brighton. Established in 2010 by Ru and Esme Crowther, they plant on a single south-facing slope and work with the Plumpton Estate to produce the wine.
With only a limited number of bottles produced, it is always special to lay your hands on a bottle of Poynings. We particularly enjoy their Bacchus with its delicious notes of lychee and pineapple. Bacchus is a variety that tends to be drunk before the next vintage comes around, but a bumper crop in the UK in 2018 led to Bacchus being given time to age – and the result is more tropical flavours that have lightened over time.
Oxney Estate, Sussex
Oxney is the UK’s largest producer of organic English wine and very proud of its ‘expressive’ sparkling and still wines. With all their wine produced from grapes grown on 35 acres of Soil Association-certified land, Oxney believes that their organic, slow methods represent the future for English wine. Their winery is a converted grade II listed oast house which is heated by wood chips from their own coppiced woodland.
We are enjoying the Oxney still Chardonnay 2020. It’s creamy and fresh with both citrus and nutty flavours.
Alder Vineyard, Devon
Alder Vineyard is set at the foot of Dartmoor in the Devon Hills, and if it’s possible to bottle the wild romance of the Devon coast, this family-run vineyard has done it. With 5,000 vines planted, Alder’s crops particularly flourished during golden summer of 2014, creating their now famous red and white grapes. Alder also loves demystifying winemaking, and they run fun and illuminating vineyard tours, where they walk visitors through the grounds and unpack the winemaking process.
We highly recommend sampling some of the Alder 2015 red – their first red vintage.
Alder Vineyard and Rondo 2015
Once you've explored the flourishing world of English wine, enhance your experience with eto's guide on wine tasting.