‘Huge’ potential of English Pinot Noir remains ‘untapped’

Pinot Noir has “huge” untapped potential to become one of UK’s leading still wines, a prominent English winemaker has claimed.

Pinot Noir is now the UK’s most widely planted grape accounting for 31.5% of vines or 803 ha, according to WinesGB, the trade organisation that represents vineyards in England and Wales, but the majority of the UK’s Pinot Noir crop currently goes towards the production of English sparkling wine. Sparkling wine makes up 68% of of all wines produced in the UK (around 4 million bottles), or 52% of all English and Welsh wines sold, but there are no figures currently available to suggest how much Pinot Noir is used for still, as opposed for sparkling production.

However, speaking to the drinks business earlier this month, Bolney Wine Estate’s managing director and lead winemaker Sam Linter said the variety had the potential to become the UK’s leading still red wine.

“I’ve been banging on about it for the last 10 yrs, but you can get very good English Pinot Noir ” she told db. “It has so much potential and there are some really good sites for Pinot Noir in the UK, I think England’s still red wine should be Pinot Noir.”

Linter said the estate had recently held an “amazing” vertical tasting of its Pinot Noirs. “You get those lovely red cherry flavours, and it evolves the longer you keep it in bottles,” she said. “We’ve never kept it long enough because of the demand, but the wine evolves in a really exciting way, with more savoury notes.”

English producers, she added were only just beginning to make the most of the variety’s potential for still wines, she said, pointing out that Bolney Wine Estate, which specialises in still and red wine production, is set to increase production following its merger with neighbouring vineyard Pookchurch estate earlier this month.

“We have been producing around 45%-40% sparkling, 55%-60% still wine for the last few years, but we want to push it more toward the still wine, especially with Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio,” she said. “It’s what we’re know for.”

“We’re increasing production from 28,000 bottles last year, and want it to over 50,000 bottles by 2022, up from the 10,000 bottles we used to make. Other producers are focussing on it. I do see some of the top producers bringing it through. It is an exciting potential for the future.”

Db broke the news earlier this month that the Sussex wine estate was doubling in size after merging with the 67-acre Pookchurch estate in Cuckfield, Sussex. The newly enlarged Bolney Wine Estate will see 104 acres planted with Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Bacchus, Pinot Meunuier and Chardonnay which will support the estate’s expansion ambitious plans to ramp up production, Linter told db

Still wines on the up

Pinot Noir is not the only grape that producers are keen to see increase in the UK.

James Lambert, director of The Lyme Bay Winery, has previously argued that there will be a “new wave” concentrating on still wine in the UK over the next ten years. He told Fine Food Digest magazine in 2015 that the “problem” of sparkling wines, which has proved highly successful for the UK, was that it was a luxury and therefore higher-priced product that was purchased less frequently than still wines.

He argued that white wine variety Bacchus, which is now the fourth most planted grape in the UK, after the three sparkling varieties, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier and accounts for around 5.6% of the UK’s vines in 2018, had the most exciting potential to become English flagship still wine.

2018 saw a bumper year for English and Welsh wine, with record volumes of grapes harvested the board, and expectation that around 18 million bottles of wine would be produced.

For db’s round up of other still wines flying the flag for the UK, see here.

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