In the past few years, English wines have finally started to receive the recognition they deserve. It all started with the well-earned awards success of a few sparkling wines, mostly from Sussex and Surrey. These bubbles sparked a wider interest in wines from all over the country, with regions such as East Anglia, the Southwest, and even the Midlands emerging as serious regions to look out for in the future.
The cool climate we know all too well skews production towards sparkling wines, but there are plenty of still wines out there waiting to be discovered. The most popular varieties under vine are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for sparkling wines, and for still wine the Bacchus grape is perhaps best-known for quality production, while Seyval Blanc, Müller-Thurgau, and even Pinots Gris and Blanc remain popular for their cool-climate resistance.
English sparkling wines have long been the wine-insider’s secret weapon for the simple reason that they offer excellent value for money against Champagne. For the price of a relatively ordinary non-vintage wine from Champagne, you can choose from excellent vintage offerings from almost any producer in the country. The wines tend to be made in the traditional method, balancing fresh citrus notes against the autolytic bready and brioche-y character you expect from excellent Champagne. Look out for these wines on restaurant wine lists; like Champagne, they are extremely versatile food wines and their value for money has made them very popular with sommeliers.
White wines from this country tend to be dry, low in alcohol, and high in acidity with a characteristic spring-garden quality. Popular Bacchus wines have been described as flinty or grassy, with notes of gooseberry, greengage, and elderflower. A great alternative to Sauvignon Blanc, they pair well with English classics such as new potatoes, watercress, asparagus, simply cooked fish, cucumber, and white, salty cheeses. Simply put, the best thing to do is stock up before the whole lot sells out, lay them down for a few months, then celebrate the arrival of the British spring with both food and wine from our fertile doorstep (demand for English wine is rapidly growing across the country while supply struggles to keep up).
We’re very proud of our range of English wines here at Nickolls and Perks, so we thought we’d highlight a few must-see wines from our cellars.
Albury Estate’s classic cuvee stands apart from the growing crowd of English sparkling wine. The vineyards are totally organic, drawing attention from influential wine critic Monty Waldin. He’s not alone, as this wine has won numerous international awards, including a silver from Decanter. We thought the wine had excellent freshness and fruit, making it the perfect aperitif.
This blanc de blancs offers something a bit different, with a portion of Seyval Blanc adding varietal complexity and a more ‘English’ feel. Notes of fresh garden herbs and a touch of gooseberry really root this wine in its country, making it a fabulous buy for anyone wanting to learn about English terroirs. We thought the wine’s balance and finish suggest a wine much more developed – and expensive! A fantastic value wine, of which not an awful lot was made.
Popular with wine critics and award panelists alike, this Pinot Noir rose offers loads of crunchy red fruit with acidity and sweetness in perfect harmony.
Another international award winner, Lyme Bay recommend pairing this salty-citric gem with classic English seafood. Four varieties were vinified separately before blending to encourage complexity. Four months fine-lees ageing improve mouthfeel, so try tasting this against any Muscadet and see if you agree that English wines are becoming a force to be reckoned with.
Along with traditional method sparkling wines, Bacchus is the wine to try if you want to familiarise yourself with developments in the English wine world. With multiple producers around the country finding acclaim with the grape, this Bacchus from our very own Worcestershire is the perfect place to start. Fresh and aromatic, the wine is a fantastic alternative to sauvignon blanc, and offers an affordable entry point into the world of English wine.
It’s no secret that everyone loves a drop of rose from time to time, so there’s no excuse not to try this gem from an iconic grape variety grown right here in the midlands. A perfect summer drop with notes of wild strawberries on the palate.
English wine has never been such good value, such high quality, or so varied. With so much to choose from, not knowing where to start can be daunting. This being the case, we want you to feel free to come into the shop or drop us a message at any time, as we take pleasure in recommending the perfect wine just for you. For world-class wine, there’s no need to look further than right here in England any more.
- Joe Collier