I have a confession to make: I am contemplating having a love affair with British wine*. Specifically organic British wine. Nobody tells my dad yet. He is fine with the organic bit but the British bit is going to be a bit more tricky to explain. Getting him to warm to my British husband was hard enough but British wine?! Vraiment?? Isn’t that some kind of oxymoron?
It all started with a brief encounter last month at the RAW Fair. I was of course already aware that there were some vineyards in Britain, in fact I had seen some with my own eyes in Wales but I had not yet been introduced to organic British wine*. I happened to pass the stand of Davenport. The people looked friendly, the stall looked smart and it would have been rude not to stop and taste. I was very pleasantly surprised. The wine was crisp and lively and very refreshing. “Oooh, I said quite loudly, this is really nice!” I swear I saw one of my compatriots shrug his shoulders. The young man at the stall looked very pleased as I wrote a few notes down in my notebook.
Back at home, I opened my “bible”: The World Atlas of Wine and checked for any British wine* entry. England and Wales only account for one page in this very big book but the write up is quite positive:
It states that “About 80% of English wine is white, with most of the rest rosé” I also found out that the Champagne varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier are prevalent so, not surprisingly, a lot of British wines are sparkling.
“There is little difference in the chalk soil between Champagne and England’s Downs and climate change has been decidedly in England’s favour.”
“The wines being made in England and Wales today, especially those that sparkle, have their own uniquely crisp, bright-fruited, lively style”
So there, if it is good enough for Jancis Robinson, it’s good enough for anyone!
I have to say at this point that it is much easier for me to fantasize and write about British wine now I have had the first sunny day here in ages than it would have been at any point during last week. I think it’s fair to say that the area I have chosen to live in, although lovely in many respects, will not be a successful wine-growing region anytime soon. I live in east-Yorkshire, not that far away from the sea, which means that, whilst some areas of the country can been bathing in sunshine, we can have days full of damp cold fog and a temperature of 12 degrees Celsius in the middle of June. We have just had a week of that. On days like that, I can’t believe that wine could grow in this country and, since I can’t feel the sun on my skin, I pour myself a glass of liquid sunshine, aka Côtes du Rhône and I think about all the warmth that was necessary for it to be created.
It says in my Wines and Spirit WSET textbooks that, to ripen fully, vines need the average temperature to be somewhere between 16 and 21 degrees Celsius, if the growing season is shortened because of poor weather the grapes won’t ripen properly.
Here they’d stand no chance!
In warmer parts of the country ( the temperature is actually more important than whether it is sunny or not) vines can grow but I still think that being a British wine maker can’t be for the faint-hearted, especially if you are an organic British* winemaker. The yields must be quite unpredictable. So, obviously, this is the kind of product I am interested in. Because I like a challenge and because I want to bring to people wines they won’t find everywhere else. So, without giving too much away and spoiling things for the guests of my upcoming wine-tasting parties, I have decided I’m going to source and use organic British Wines* too and I will be putting some on my online shop very soon.
One thing I would love to achieve is to be the one who can enthuse my compatriots about British wine*. There are now British pubs everywhere in France and Paris has more and more organic wine bars and even natural wine bars so British Wine* could be the next craze, couldn’t it? Ok, maybe I am getting a bit ahead of myself…
My next challenge should actually be a bit easier but still interesting: every summer I go home and one of the things I like best is my dad making me blind taste his latest wine acquisitions. This time, I will be bringing my own bottles too. I won’t tell him it is British wine* and I bet he will be very surprised, hopefully pleasantly so. And, if he is, then I will feel victorious because I quite like “ tricking him”. I bet it will still take a while before he approves of my new “love”.
Now, before you introduce your new love to your parents, you tend to suss out what your friends think, don’t you? So, my dear readers, I would like to know: what are your thoughts about British wine* in general? Have you tried any organic British wine*? Which one would you advise me to take home? Please help me in my quest for a new exciting wine adventure partner.