Celebrate English Wine Week: Alistair Gibson

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Question: which of the world’s wine regions is currently one of the fastest growing?  The answer – and this is not a sentence I thought I would write 10 years ago – is the UK.  Amazingly, wine production is one the fastest growing agricultural sectors in the country.

It is English Wine Week, an opportunity to celebrate and fly the flag for English wine.

Not only is it significantly growing but in my view England is one of the most exciting wine regions in the world right now.

Since 2000 the acreage of vineyards has tripled and 2018 was truly a bumper harvest – 15.6 million bottles were produced. 

The production of sparkling wine now accounts for 69 per cent of wine produced and there is no doubt that the arrival in recent years of two Champagne houses, Taittinger in Kent and Pommery in Hampshire, is a firm endorsement for the future of the industry.

English wine now has space on most of the major supermarket shelves which is another encouraging sign that it has truly arrived.

Co-op Irresistible Limestone Rise 2017 (Co-op £9.00) is produced for the Co-op by Denbies, one of the UK’s largest producers and is a blend of mainly bacchus and ortega.

It’s quite aromatic with notes of elderflower, peach and tropical fruits, followed by a palate that has a more peach, some citrus and a nice juicy finish with a little more weight than I had expected.

It’s not overly complex but well-made and a good value introduction to English wine.

Exquisite Collection Lyme Block English White 2018, Devon (Aldi £9.99) is made for Aldi by Lyme Bay Winery and is another blend of white grapes but with bacchus to the fore. It is from the wonderful 2018 vintage, which really shines through in this wine.

It’s very fresh with a bouquet of lime, elderflower and green herbs, followed by zesty, almost piercing grapefruit acidity and a crisp, very focused finish.

I really like this wine with its almost Loire-like feel, and it would be a great match for the last of the English asparagus or an English goats cheese salad to make for a very patriotic dinner or lunch.

We are so lucky to have some fantastic producers right on our door step and if I were to pick one English sparkling rose right now it would be Hambledon Classic Cuvee Rosé NV (M&S £35, hambledonvineyard.co.uk £35, Fareham Wine Cellar £32.50, Hermitage Cellars £28.95 – special offer for English Wine Week).

Made from 90 per cent chardonnay with 10 per cent pinot noir, this is such a pretty wine in the glass, with red fruits, including cherry, strawberry and cranberry on the nose, followed by a nicely textured palate with more strawberry fruit and well-integrated acidity before a lingering finish.

This is both lots of fun but also a serious message of intent as to the quality possible in this green and pleasant land.