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Fine English wine – I’m not kidding – it exists

We continue our homage this week to English wine, given that it’s English Wine Week, by looking at just what you can expect from the produce and a few places helping promote the week if not by marrying their set-course menus to the wine they’re promoting, but also by stocking up on a few bottles of English Plonk.

Finding a good English wine (stick that in Google and see how many search results come back with an exact match – not too many!) has oft been a problem, especially in light of the recent celebrations where you can’t walk along a High Street without whacking your head of down-hanging bunting because everything just has to be British. But there are several supporters of this week’s event itself and the ongoing effort to bring English wine to the fore.

A popular place to procure English vintage has been online, with only specialist merchants actually carrying bulk stock of any note. The award-winning waitrosewines.com seems to be the most popular port of call, looking around the forums and blogs but there are many English vintners selling produce direct. The number of those has risen dramatically in the last decade or so.

So much so that there are approximately 400 vineyards in England producing their own wine or supplying the grape to mass producers in order that they may enhance the growing reputation of the niche. The latest figure is that England is producing in the region of 2,000,000 bottles of wine. It’s nothing like enough to make any sort of dent in the global wine market but, with all regions producing their own distinctive brand, it is most definitely a platform to launch from.

Perhaps of all the English wines, sparkling has taken off more than traditional red or white. With similar earth to take root in as the Champagne region of France, the matured and fermented grape, when blind-taste tested in international wine competition, has seen results that have been more than favourable, considering it is a bit of British bubbly. Reds have been a problem, but with the introduction of new grapes suited to our climate (and a lot of perseverance), you can picked up a full-bodied English red, too.

Whites, on the other hand, project a flowery bouquet and can be sharp, much in the way that the sparkling has a distinctive bite in comparison to our warmer-climed Continental competition. Uplifting on the palate it may be, but the acidity levels can have a knock-on effect the morning after if consumed in too much volume (which we shouldn’t be doing, anyway, should we, folks? The answer to that one is: “No!”, in case you were wondering).

So, next time you book your all-British cookery class, likewise I’m not jesting: over in Canada they are running cookery courses that are full-bodied Brit, you’ll know that, to complete the meal, you can pick up a bottle of English wine to suit.  Join me tomorrow when we delve even deeper into this growing sector of the wine market and highlight some of the most prolific vineyards on our home shores.

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Cookery Courses News

British Wine Week – a new side to grasping growing grape

I hate to imagine what the final bill will be like for the champu consumed this week in London – and the rest of the country – as Jubilee-mania sweeps the nation. There is a lot to be patriotic this year in the UK. We’ve already had the biggest chunk of the celebrations marking the Queen’s sixtieth year on the throne, just the thanksgiving to come today to draw it all to a conclusion (how many of the millions lining the banks of The Thames last night will find their way to church, today, mm?).

We’ve also got the Olympics to look forward to in the summer and, with somewhat surprisingly less gusto than normal, we have the Euro 2012 Championships, where football fans and experts are giving England ass much chance of winning as the bookies are for Prince Charles divorcing Camilla and walking Kylie up the aisle in her place. We have, however, seen a full year of the world of golf‘s top three spots occupied by Brits, with Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood swapping places at number one almost as regularly as The Guard changes at Buck House.

But another passage of events that is seemingly going by without remarkable fanfare is British Wine Week, with the consumer jury still out on whether the UK can actually produce a vino to rival the trending Californian, Australian and South African wines that have replaced the likes of hock, Riesling and Liebfraumilch on supermarket shelves in recent times (I had to put that in – my good lady is a huge fan of Deutshce Wein, so hard to get at your local superstore, these days). This raises the point, why go to the expense in attending cookery courses if your fashion sense for wine is outdated and the night becomes a damp squib because your choice from the wine cellar leaves so much to be desired?

English wine has transformed over the last twenty years

But, according to Alex Down, renowned blogger for The Riesling Revolutionary and from time to time the Great British Chefs website, British wine has emerged from a cocoon it was sharing beneath the same leaf as British cuisine in the last two decades and has turned into a beautiful butterfly, although still somewhat as fragile. This has as much to do with wineries and their masters upping their game in an attempt to rival the likes of South Africa whose wine production, since the end of Apartheid, has ballooned from 30m litres to 400m litres per annum over a similar time-scale.

The key behind the success of English winemakers has been to recognise that grapes that do well in hotter climes are not going to reap similar rewards in our own very temperate climate. Indeed, research and experimentation has seen winemakers in the UK develop the grapes best suited to our very unpredictable weather and has helped achieved two things.

Obviously, there are less failed crops but English wine – rather than try and emulate a Chilean Red or crisp white from the plains of Australia, has developed its own earthy taste, giving it a distinction and an identity it has never possessed before. There is much to be said for the reaction – some critics are appraising it positively, whilst others try to hand it the Phantom of the Opera’s mask as they daresn’t look upon its countenance, let alone let it slip past their lips. Much more to come from British Wine Week to try to persuade the consumer that it is not the enemy. Stay with me this week when take a closer look at the methods being used to bring us the perfect wine to accompany the recipes and menus we learn at our ever-growing market of cookery courses.

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