For years any mention of English wine has had to be prefaced with an explanation that English wine and British wines are totally different beasts.  English wine is made from grapes grown in England, and as such carries the identifying flavours of the vineyard, grapes and winemaker’s skill.  In contrast British wine is made from concentrated grape juice, imported in big plastic barrels and fermented somewhere in East London and carries the identifying flavours of the local tap water.

All this was fine until the Welsh learnt how to grow grapes. Understandably they were not happy for their distinctly Welsh wine to be called English so another name had to be thought up.

And that is when the powers that be came up with WineGB, with the subtitle, Wines of Great Britain.  For many people this is an uncomfortable rebrand but I like it, especially since the logo looks a bit like a bunch of grapes parachuting in on a Union Jack flag. Having spent many years of my life standing by a rowing lake, cheering on the British rowing team by shouting ‘Come on GB’, I am quite happy with WineGB. It explains precisely where the wine comes from – any part of these lovely isles.  And the name is future-proof in case global warming brings vineyards to sunny Speyside.

 

This doesn’t mean that WineGB and British wine are the same. You can easily spot the difference because the unspeakably awful examples of British wine are easily identifiable by their cheap-as-chips price and flavour.

Here in Yorkshire we have several thriving vineyards, where the owners are busy growing grapes, selling wine and attracting tourists. Now we are at the start of English Wine Week when restaurants and vineyards make a special effort to promote the best of WineGB it is time to grab a glass of wine at your local shop or hostelry or make plans to go visit a vineyard, either in Yorkshire or on your travels further afield.

 

On the outskirts of Leeds, in Woodlesford, Leventhorpe Vineyard is generally open to visitors and during English Wine Week owner and vigneron George Bowden will be on-site to welcome guests between 11am and 4.  As well as wines to taste there will be specialist Yorkshire cheeses.  George planted Leventhorpe in 1985 on a sunny slope where he noticed that the winter snow melted first.  This extra sunshine helps ripen the crop and 2017 was exceptional for the quality and volume of the grapes.  ‘I am delighted because the long ripening period meant that even the Seyval Blanc variety had plenty of time to fill out its flavours.’  George often sells out of his wine very quickly, but the large 2017 crop means that he will be able to give the wines some age.  Although hesitant to predict the 2018 crop, George noted budburst commenced on April 23 and it was spread evenly across the varieties which bodes well for the overall crop.  This is a splendid small vineyard to go visit and ask questions about growing grapes.

 

Between Harrogate and York, in the village of Nun Monkton, Chris and Gillian Spakouskas now have 10.5 acres of vines and produce a wide range of award-wining wines at their Yorkshire Heart vineyard.  They are open for visitors on a regular basis and have a café on site where they serve lunches and afternoon tea.  You can even arrange to hold your wedding reception amongst the vines.  Although Yorkshire Heart wines are on sale in local farm shops and restaurants it is quite likely that you will have to call in to the vineyard to find the whole range. ‘We sell 80% of our wine on-site every year and we sell out each vintage,’ said Chris.  ‘And because we serve so much wine on the farm, we can recycle the bottles which is environmentally friendly too.

Check the websitewww.yorkshireheart.comfor details of events.

 

Laurel Vines is a relatively new Yorkshire venture by Ian and Ann Sargent in Aike near Driffield where they now have 9 acres of vineyard and a brand new, temperature controlled, well-equipped winery.  They are planning a fairly energetic option for English Wine Week by inviting visitors to bring their own wellies and help them plant vines.  ‘We have 2800 vines to get in the ground and all help is welcome’ said Rebekah Sargent. You need to ring first to make sure they know you are coming but if they can fit you into one of the teams you’ll also get to try the wine and maybe even get lunch.  Ring 07513 012708 or email info@laurel-vines.co.uk

 

As usual the Sheveling estate at Holmfirth Vineyard will be open for tours, breakfasts, lunches and afternoon teas as well as tastings. The views from the tasting lounge are spectacular and well worth a trip up the hill. Ring 01484 691861 for details.

 

I recently tasted through most of the English wines available on the UK shelves.  If all you want to do is raise a glass to WineGB, here is my choice of the best.

English Dry White 2016, Surrey, Waitrose, £8.99

Tremendous value in this crisp, zesty wine with lime and pink grapefruit notes and a hint of spice on the palate.

Three Choirs Willow Brook 2014, Gloucestershire, Marks and Spencer £10

A fresh, light wine with the scent of an English garden. Perfect for a summer lunch.

 

 

Balfour 1503 Foxwood Classic Cuvée NV, Kent, Co-op £16.99

This great value Foxwood sparkling wine comes from the prestigious Hush Heath estate, and is exclusive to the Co-op. The wine has white flower notes on the aroma, and yellow stone and citrus fruit on the palate.

Camel Valley Pinot Noir Rosé Brut, Cornwall Waitrose £29.99

A wonderful pink fizz with lively strawberry fruit on the nose, and a juicy citrus and raspberry palate.  Precise, balanced and elegant.  Wonderful for an English summer wedding.

 

Exton Park Pinot Meunier Rosé, Hampshire, The Fizz Company (0800 313 4470, Wetherby) £40

A gold medal winning single-varietal sparkling wine, pale coral in colour, with delicate floral notes, red summer berry fruits and a hint of ginger spice.

 

 

 

 

 

About The Author

Christine Austin

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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