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Published on May 3, 2018 | by Alastair Gilmour

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The English are coming

Suzanne Locke springs some indigenous wine surprises

As I sit writing this on St George’s Day, I cast my mind back, that only a week previously on April 17, we were celebrating International Malbec Day. The grape which has graced the world wine map for a only very short time already has a day named after it – George had to wait somewhat longer.  Argentina, where Malbec is the signature grape, has optimised every opportunity – and very successfully too – to bring it to the world’s attention, so it’s encouraging that the English are to have a whole week of celebration of our own viticulture.

English Wine Week this year is May 26 -June 3 when wines from the home countries will feature in restaurants, retail and leisure events. (May 21-23) with more than 40 countries showing in excess of 14,000 wines, while Britain is well represented in wine and spirit categories.

There are more than 400 commercial vineyards in Britain, predominantly in the South of England. Recently, Northumberland had one brave but unsuccessful attempt at growing grapes near Belford and in Cumbria, High Cup Wines near Appleby did have some production but this has ceased now, although they have older vintages for sale. In North Yorkshire there are a couple of vintners having some success, and around the Leeds area, several vineyards are trading commercially.

While wine lovers have familiarised themselves with grape varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling, the names seen on English bottles may not be so familiar. With Seyval Blanc, Reichensteiner, Muller Thurgau and Bacchus being among the more successful varieties grown in the UK – chosen because they thrive in cooler temperatures. These grapes tend to produce still table wines, but it is the sparkling wines that we have had the most success with.

The Southern shires have similar growing conditions as the Champagne region; soil and temperature-wise, so it is more of an even playing field for fizz production – so much so that famous Champagne houses are buying land in Kent to produce wine here.

English sparkling is a good option for any wedding, as it compares favourably both in quality and price with Champagne (I heard on the “grapevine” that the illustrious English producers Chapel Down are supplying Harry and Meghan’s nuptials). It’s a busy May for wine drinkers with a fair, a wedding and a week to give English wine a try.

*Advintage are this year off to Central Italy’s most prestigious vineyards on May 21-28 with visits to Orvieto, Lazio and Montalcino (flights to Rome from Newcastle), based at Lake Bolsena. Prices from £879 per person sharing. Details: www.Advintagewine.co.uk or call Suzanne Locke: 0191 253 2979.


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Alastair Gilmour



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