According to archaeologists, grapes grew in England well before Roman legionnaires set foot in these parts.
Celtic tribes were the first to enjoy wine before Romans conquered in England in 43 A D. They planted vineyards, but also imported wine from Veneto, Naples, Cyprus, and Crete.
Amphorae were produced in England between 70 – 100 A D . From the 13th century onwards, wine was transported in barrels to minimize breakage.
The earliest recorded evidence of wine production in England dates back to 731 A D.
Anglo-Saxons preferred beer, but they needed wine for communion, and monks planted some vineyards.
Kings also owned vineyards.
Yorkshire boasted most of the vineyards up to the 13th century.
In the 14th century the climate changed to cold, wet, and cloudy summers, and wine production was considerably reduced.
Gascony and later Bordeaux became the main wine suppliers to England.
The revival of English viticulture started in 1950`with global warming.
England is located of the 51st the parallel north, and only because of the Gulf Steam and global arming can grow grapes. Winnipeg in Canada lies on 50th parallel north.
The English soil in parts consists of Kimmeridgian soil, which is conducive to viticulture, with an average of 1430 hours of sunshine.
Presently there are close to 2000 hectares of vineyards in Sussex and Kent.
Of the total production 33 per cent is still wine, and the rest sparkling due to the high acidity of the fruit.
450 vineyards supply close to 400 wineries, most of which are small, family operations.
Bacchus, pinto meunier, chardonnay, ortega, reichensteiner and pinot noir are the preferred grape varieties.
Sparkling wien producers use for their blanc de blancs wines mainly chardonnay and pinot meunier. Most English sparkling wine producers use pinot noir, chardonnay adn pinot meunier for their brands.
Of late, English sparkling wines produced using methode champenoise have been awarded prestigious international awards, and Taittinger, an old well-established Champagne producer, bought land in England to plant vineyards.
Vintages play an important role and should be taken into consideration when buying English wines.
The following sparkling wineries are known to produce quality products
Coates and Selly, Castle Brook, Nytimber, Black Dog Hill, Ridgeview, Wyfordvin, Bolnay Wine Estates, Chapel Down, Ancre Hill, Sixteen Lodges, Denbies Wine Estates, Exton Park Vine, Lyme Bay Winery,
Wiston Estate, and Langham.