When Roman soldiers occupied England, their commanders made them plant vineyards, since each had a ration of one litre of wine per day to mix with local water to kill pathogenic bacteria.
Britain’s climate is wet and cool, but global warming makes it possible fro grapes to ripen fully at least twice in a decade, four times adequately, and four times poorly.
In 1509 during the reign of King Henry VIII, there were 139 wineries of which 11 were official suppliers of the crown.
During the 19th century, phylloxera struck many vineyards and viticulture was abandoned,
Interest started again in 1960’s with smallholdings and now it has become quiet popular, especially since several British sparkling wines were awarded gold medals in credible international competitions and occasionally even managed to beat champagnes from France.
Base sparkling wine must be high in acidity and British fruit possesses this quality.
Presently there are 1250 hectres of vineyards in England and Wales.
Dunbies with 200 hectares of vineyards is the largest winery in the country.
The limestone rich soils of Sussex, Kent, Lancashire, Suffolk, Berkshire, and Cambridgeshire are suitable for vine cultivation.
Yorkshire, Shropshire, and Derbyshire have now planted vineyards.
The price of grapes is about six times that of potatoes, and many farmers with suitable terroir are switching to viticulture.
Scotland has one half-hectare vineyard attached to a hotel planted to Riesling.
British wine consumption is substantial, and local wine represents only one per cent of the total.
According to law, British wine is grape juice (imported or otherwise) fermented on British soil.
Chardonnay, Madelein Angevine, Schonburger, Muller-Thurgau, Huxelrebe, Ortega, Seyval Blanc, pinot blanc, pinot precoce, pinot gris are preferred for white wines.
For red wines, growers plant pinot noir, dornfelder and pinot meunier.
Sparkling wine producers use chardonnay, pinot precoce, pinot blanc, and pinot gris for their blends.
German hybrid grapes are preferred because of their suitability for short growing seasons, during which diurnal temperature variations can be as much as 30 C.
Nytimber is one of the best sparkling wine producers of Britain. It uses the traditional method of production and excels in quality.
Recently some English sparkling wines were awarded gold medals in international wine competitions and occasionally even beating their competitors from Champagne in France.
English white wines are fruity, off-dry, resembling their German counterparts mostly because of grape varieties planted.
Red wines look like more “dark” rose from Italy. They are light, acid-driven, fruity, and require fatty foods.
Generally, English wines are expensive and mostly purchased by the nobility for patriotic reasons. The segment of market is called “the carriage trade”.
Cider is by far the most popular alcoholic beverage after beer in Britain.
Invading Roman legionnaires in 55 B C found people in Kent making cider from crab apple juice. When the Roman Empire collapsed, cider making became the domain of monasteries; monks had the patience to cultivate apple orchards.
In 800 Charlemagne (Carolus magnus) planted orchards in Normandy and introduced cider to Normans. To this day, Norman cider is considered superior to any other. More importantly, when Charlemagne invaded England, apple trees were already planted, and English took to cider making and rinking. There are mopre than 600 apple varieties, but for cider, only highacid fruit can be used to produce fine and palatable cider. Englsuh apple vartieties are distinclt different to those popular in Orth America. In fact, on this contionent, apples are grown mostly for out-of-hand eating. Some fot eh apples that enlgish cider producers use are: Lady’s Finger of Lancaster, Sheep’s nose, nobebd Russet, Foxwhelp, Peasgood nonesuch, red streak, to name just a few.
For hard cider, the juice is fermented after filtration to seven ABV, and then barrel aged, or kept in stainless steel tanks for six months or longer.
Many artisan ciders are un-pasteurized and /or fines or filtered therefore appear to be cloudy, and taste better. Exported cider is highly processed and filtered for brilliant lustre.
Processing removes some of the flavonoids, but manufacturers prefer filtration to selling a cloudy product, which many consumers consider to be a fault.
Sweet ciders, which are more popular, are always pasteurized for wide distribution, and prevention of undesirable second fermentation in the bottle.
Cider can be kept for four to six days after being opened.
If you want to freeze cider allow sufficient space in the bottle as freezing expands the liquid.
Enjoy cider at room temperature (16 – 18 C), which is the average British room temperature.
Hard cider is also produced as sparkling and goes well with game meat, cheeses, and baked apples.
In Canada, iced apple wine id an absolute delight doe desserts, and to enjoy it as an after dinner cap.
List of some English wineries
- Biddenden Vineyards
- Blackboys Vineyard
- Bolney Wine estates
- Caste Brook Vineyards
- Danebury Vineyards
- Danebury Vineyards
- Denbies Eine Estate
- Kingscote Vineyards
- Nytimber Sparklign Wines
- Sedlescomb Organic Vineyards