When someone mentions a ‘delicious bottle of wine’, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Perhaps a crisp red made from the finest grapes in the Italian countryside, or a fresh and fruity rosé imported directly from the French coast, or maybe even an aromatic and tropical Chilean wine?
Those are all great choices, but have you ever considered a wine made right here on home turf, in the UK? The English wine market is booming, and last year was a record-breaking year for English wine at the Decanter World Wine Awards (138 medals for English producers!)
To celebrate English Wine Week, here’s a guide to some fantastic English winemakers and an insight into their journeys as independent drink producers. Enjoy!
1) Renegade & Longton Wines
How It Began: Renegade & Longton was created by two friends Brendan (The Renegade) and Richard (Longton) who left their stable careers as a corporate accountant and a GP to follow their passion for tasting and creating sparkling wines. Brendan began experimenting with alcoholic drinks made without grapes. He was interested in methods of fermentation similar to those used for champagne. While this may have worked for a period of time, after one too many unsuccessful batches and a few explosions here and there, Brendan reached out to Richard, who had already gathered around 30 years’ experience of wine-making. They joined forces and upgraded from Brendan's living room, to Richard’s garden shed, and then onto a commercial winery near Hastings. Success!
The Range: Through hard work, research, and sheer determination, Richard and Brendan have perfected two incredible products - their Elderflower Blush Sparkling Wine and a Pure Elderflower Sparkling Wine. These wines are inspired by the era when Champagne and sparkling wines were first popularised with foraged ingredients from the nearby hedgerows to complement the taste of the grapes. The results are dry, delicious, sparkling premium artisan wines.
2) Castle Brook
How It Began: Run by the Chinn family, these wines are made from the very best grapes cultivated in an ancient Roman vineyard in Herefordshire. However, their journey did not start with this delicate alcoholic drink but in fact with asparagus production! (Something the Chinn family has become well-known for.) The Castle Brook vines were planted in 2004, and their first vintage was released in 2006. Since inception, the company has had a commitment to producing the finest quality English sparkling wine.
Notable Success: Two years into their journey, they won 3 silver medals at the Decanter World Wine Awards. This was the start of a long successful road of achievements, earning them trophies for the “Best Sparkling Wine”, “Wine Of The Year” at South West Vineyard's Association, and a gold medal in the “Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championship” amongst many others.
The Range: The range consists of three sparkling wines (Classic Cuvée, Rosé, Blanc de Blancs) that are made using traditional methods. 21 different clones of three traditional Champagne grapes are grown at the vineyard - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.
3) Carr Taylor Wines
How It Began: The journey of this wonderful family-run business dates all the way back to 1971 with their first plantation, and later expanding into a total of 37 acres in 1990 to meet demand for their incredible wine. They had their first successful commercial crop in the delightful summer of 1976, where friends and family, as young as 7 years old, came together to pick grapes. Alex, the same 7-year-old boy, who found so much joy in picking delicious grapes in the summer of ‘76 is now the main winemaker after achieving first-class honours in Agriculture at Reading University in 1992.
Notable Success: Soon after perfecting their initial recipe, Carr Taylor Wines started earning multiple awards, beginning with a silver medal in the 1981 “International Wine & Spirit Competition”. In 1984, the vineyard took a step into a new territory, creating wine utilising the same techniques as champagne. After releasing their sparkling wine a few years later, they earned a gold medal at the prestigious “Concours European des Grands Vins” beating 1,800 Champagnes from all over the globe. Since the vineyard was founded, they've won over 130 awards.
The Range: Carr Taylor's wines have developed a distinctive English character over time, with a crisp and aromatic taste. Their range includes Carr Taylor Brut, Demi Sec, White Pinot, Rosé Sparkling, 1066, Bacchus, Cannonball, Rosé, and even Slow Fortified Wine, and flavoured sweet wine such as Elderberry, Cherry, Apple, Ginger, Apricot, and Mead - so there really is something for everyone!
Touring UK Vineyards
Creating wine is an incredible journey, from growing crops, squeezing the juice out of the grapes and the best part of it all… tasting the amazing wine!
When imagining a vineyard - we tend to conjure up images of vast green land in the mountains of Italy and France, but what about those in the great UK countryside?
Here’s some inspiration for a post-lockdown wine tasting trip in the UK.....
Carr Taylor Wine
Location: East Sussex
Guided Tour: This tour is as rich in information as their wines are in flavour. With a brief history on English wines and the main differences between the ones we encounter here to the ones in Europe. Learn more about the techniques used when making wine while exploring the winery and bottling room. Finish your day with arguably the best and most important part… the wine tasting!
Guided Tour: Learn all about the journey, from their first crop to their road of success becoming key suppliers to British icons such as Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver and those living at No. 10 Downing Street. Learn all about the English climate and why the Kent countryside is perfect for the creation of a fine and refreshing wine. Explore the traditional method of transforming grapes into wines and of course, finish your day with a tutored tasting of award-winning wines, making yourself a true expert!
Guided Tour: Enjoy the magical experience of sitting out in the warm UK sun, learning about the journey Bob and ex-RAF pilot and his wife Annie have lived through in their 31 years of winemaking. The awards they have won and challenges they have faced throughout the years. It's the perfect way to relax, learn about wine, and of course taste of award-winning
Other than helping you put together some ideas for a future UK-based holiday, we hope we helped shine a light on some of the many great English wine producers out there. Next time you're on the hunt for a fantastic wine, why not try some of the ones mentioned here today? You can find some of the wines mentioned on BoroughBox.