With a season of socialising now on the menu for many, and with English Wine Week taking place over the 19-27th June, Footman James caught up with Andrew Cairns. Consulting wine merchant for Haynes, Hanson & Clark, he’s given us a flavour of the English wine market and some ideas on what to serve this summer.
In the last two decades, English wine has really begun to come into its own, both in terms of product and global recognition. Names like Camel Valley and NyeTimber have become global brands in their own right with strong ranges of vintage and non-vintage varieties to choose from. However, there are also some smaller-scale producers who are beginning to gain recognition among the more established European players.
Two big factors have contributed to the success of our home-grown vines. Primarily, south England enjoys the same geological formation as much of the Champagne region of France. The same band of chalky soil which makes the French region so adept at growing vines, continues all the way up through France, under the channel and extends to large parts of the south east coast of the UK.
Added to this, is a shift in the climate that has seen much of the UK becoming far more temperate for vine production. While the French regions are still ideal for this, in fact, it wouldn’t take much for the more southerly regions to become too warm to be ideal. This is great news for the production of English sparkling wines – of course, we can’t call them Champagne - the taste can be very similar thanks to the similar climate and terroir.
While our sparkling whites and roses have gained notoriety, and indeed royal seals of approval, England is now producing several red wines of distinction as well. There are some really palatable examples of the Pinot Noir grape coming from Kent at the moment, in particular the Gusbourne winery, based in Appledore. It’s produced some delicious and award-winning varieties of both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay alongside its vintage and non-vintage Blancs de Blancs.
While many clients want to know which wines they should invest in, my answer is always the same. Don’t buy wine just as an investment - buy something you actually want to drink. The wine market can go up, certainly, and it’s great news for collectors when it does but, even if the market happens to dip, a wonderful wine will still be delicious.
If I had to single out a wine that I will be drinking myself this summer, The Grange, a Hampshire based winery, is producing some really fine pink sparkling wine. With aromas of redcurrant and a patisserie sweetness that mellows to a deeper and lasting red berry finish, it’s a sparkling wine that lends itself really well to a summer’s afternoon with friends.
With thanks to Andrew Cairns at Haynes Hanson & Clark.