In honour of English Wine Week, we’ve rounded up some of the more unconventional styles of wine available in the UK for you to take a punt on.
Hear the term ‘English wine’ today and your first thought is a traditional method sparkling wine made from the three classic Champagne varieties: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier.
Indeed, the term ‘English sparkling wine’ is protected. In order for a wine to qualify it must be made from one or a combination of grapes from an approved list, and must be made via the traditional method. But not all sparkling wine made in England conforms to these regulations. As the category has evolved, we’ve seen pétillant naturel (Pet Nat) and tank method wines emerge onto the scene.
Ask someone what ‘English wine’ was 20 years ago, and the answer would be different. While Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier are now the most planted varieties in the UK, there was a time when mostly German early-ripening varieties were grown. Some, including Bacchus, Reichensteiner and Ortega, remain popular.
Rather than always being made into semi-sweet fruity wines, however, they are being treated in different ways. Indeed, within the English and Welsh still wine sectors, there are now examples of orange and qvevri wines, made from both German and hybrid varieties as well as the classic Champagne trio.
The area under vine in the UK has increased dramatically in the past five years, with a total of 3 million vines planted last year alone. According to WineGB, the hectarage planted with grape vines has risen by 79% since 2015. While the majority of these vines are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier, there have been some more unusual plantings, including Pinotage in West Sussex.
England now has a diverse set of grape varieties, which include Albariño, Cabernet Franc, Chasselas, Gamay, Gewurztraminer, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.
Grouped into style categories, we’ve rounded up a list of the more unusual wines made in England and Wales to try during English and Welsh Wine Week.