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The Rise of English Wines

England is the fastest growing vineyard area in the world. There are now more than more than 160 wineries, 500 vineyards and nearly 2900 hectares in the UK. The number of hectares and vines being planted has doubled since 2015. This year it is expected that 2 million new vines will be planted.

In fact Champagne company Taittinger bought a vineyard in Kent, in the south East of England and will be producing an English sparkling wine within the next 5 to 10 years.

The hot summer in 2018 was perfect for ripening grapes and there was a bumper crop from which more than15 million bottles of wine will be produced. According to Simon Robinson, Chairman of Wine GB, they expect to be producing 40 million bottles a year within the next twenty years.

Nearly 70% of English wines are sparkling, although the percentage of still wines is growing. The sparkling wines, made using the traditional method as in Champagne and Cava, are made from grapes grown mostly in the southern counties, which are close to the limit where is it possible to ripen grapes to make wine on a commercial scale. All vineyards are positioned just above 50º north, giving long daylight hours in the growing season.

The cool climate conditions are more suited for sparkling wine grapes and the most widely planted varieties are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay Pinot Meunier, Bacchus and Seyval Blanc, plus some others.

The wines themselves are receiving prestigious awards. This year at the Decanter World Wine Awards, where 17000 wines entered from 57 countries, English wines won 3 ‘Best in Shows’ alongside 4 Platinum, 4 Gold and 85 silver medals.

The Chapel Down winery in Kent is of the most successful wineries, they won two of the ‘Best in Shows’ for their sparkling wines Kit’s Coty Chardonnay 2016 (€35 per bottle) and Kit’s Coty Coeur de Cuvée 2014 (€45 per bottle).

Some of these wineries have diversified into other products, Chapel Down for example makes Pinot Noir Gin and Chardonnay Vodka as well as Fine & Rare English Grape Brandy.

Wine tourism and private events are proving to be a very successful way of promoting the wines and every weekend the wineries in the South East of England are full of consumers eager to try the wines.

At the recent state banquet for the US President, Queen Elizabeth served two English sparking wines, Windsor Great Park Vineyard 2014, from here own vineyards, and Hambledon Classic Cuvee Rosé NV. The other wines were Château Lafite Rothschild 1990 and Louis Jadot’s Domaine Duc de Magenta, 1er Cru Morgeot Clos de la Chapelle Monopole, Chassagne-Montrachet 2014. The Queen’s wine cellar, the subject for another article.

While there are some exciting wines available the don’t come cheap, not surprising giving to cost of land in the south of England. However, as more wines become available prices will start to come down. Hopefully I will be able to bring some of them to Spain and arrange a tasting for them here in The Wine Place.

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I am a Northern Irishman based in Valencia. My career in wine began more than three decades ago, in London. I am the founder of TheWinePlace.es, an online store, where wine enthusiasts can enjoy a selection of international wines and Verde Marte, a company dedicated to exporting Spanish wines. Also, Thewineplace.courses, an "approved program provider" of the courses of the prestigious WSET. I share my passion for wines through my media work writing weekly columns for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo and 5 Barricas, an online wine magazine.

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