FOOD & DRINK: Wines from our own lands

Wine expert DAVID CLAY examines the many delights of English and Welsh wines.

Wine expert DAVID CLAY examines the many delights of  English and Welsh wines.

I WAS reading one of my wine books written in 1989 comparing it with one written in 2019. The difference in English winemaking is remarkable. From a tiny industry, English and some Welsh wines have attracted international interest and are now some of the best in the world with a huge array of styles.

There are now more than 600 vineyards in the UK, but only around a hundred of these are over 10 acres. The most northerly one in the world is in Durham. These northerly ones are usually in small pockets on south-facing slopes.

It is English bubbly that usually hits the headlines - I’ll keep those for another time - but here are a few good still whites and reds:

Bacchus is the ideal grape for still white wine in the UK, early ripening and often touted as the country’s answer to Sauvignon Blanc.

Other whites grapes include Seyval Blanc,  Reichensteiner, Solaris and Chardonnay.

Chapel Down Bacchus 2018, Tenterden 12pc (Sainsbury £11) Fresh and aromatic, delicate melon and peach.

Camel Valley Bacchus 2018 12.5pc (The Wine Society £13.95) Lime, peach, pear and elderflower. A lovely wine from Cornwall.

New Hall Vineyards Bacchus Reserve 2018, Crouch Valley (StarmoreBoss £13.95) Elderflower, apple, conference pear and nice, crisp finish. This is the oldest and larges Bacchus plantation in England.

Limestone Rise Bacchus 2017 11.5pc (Coop £9) Made by Denbies, it is an unoaked blend of Bacchus and Ortega and delivers juicy peach and musky flavours on a dry palate. Well made, modern and food-friendly.

Tesco, Finest English White, Hush Heath, Kent 2018 £12 11.5pc. 2018 was a good hot year benefitting this blend of  Pinot Blanc, Bacchus, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir which  has scents of cut grass and summer meadows and flavours of gooseberry and citrus honeydew melon and stone fruits and a nice juicy finish.

Chapel Down Flint Dry 2018 12pc (Morrisons Sainsbury, Waitrose £13-£14) Made from Chardonnay, Bacchus, Reichensteiner, Schönburger and Pinot Blanc  sourced from vineyards in Kent, Sussex and Essex, this  aromatic white wine has aromas of green apple, melon and elderflower. The palate is crisp and zesty leading to a smooth refreshing finish.

Exquisite Lyme Block, Devon 2018 12.5pc (Aldi £9.99) Made in South Devon at Lyme Bay Winery from grapes from various South Devon vineyards, this dry white wine  is characteristically high in acidity whilst the Bacchus is balanced by Pinot Blanc with notes of crisp green apple, lime zest, and melon.

Three Choirs Stonebrook 2018 11pc (Majestic £9.99) Soft, fruity and aromatic with hints of lychee and grapefruit, delicate and refreshing, this makes an ideal accompaniment to lightly spiced dishes. Lots of floral orange blossom, rose and elderflower, supported by some zingy grapefruit and lime with softer peach and lychee tones.

The Best English Dry 2018 (Morrisons £14) Another from Lyme Bay Winery, this has elderflower and green apple aromas with crisp apple and grapefruit flavours.

Stopham Estate Pinot Blanc 2017, West Sussex 11.5pc (Waitrose  £15.99) This is absolutely delicious, zippy acidity, perfume of pear on the nose, slightly off dry, palate of pink grapefruit and melon.

Renishaw Walled Garden White 2018 11.5pc (around £13-£14 Renishaw/StarmoreBoss) Made from the  Madeleine Anchovine grape. Honey, peach, apple and lemon zest. Probably our nearest vineyard. The surrounding hills give this a special microclimate. Only 1.25 acres, the grapes are processed at the Halfpenny Green Winery in  Bobbington Staffordshire. You can visit Wednesday to Sunday and bank holidays, May to September

While white wines are prominent, some decent reds are being produced. Good red grapes for our climate include Pinot Noir, Rondo and Dornfelder.

Here are two good ones from the Pinot Noir grape:

Welcombe Hills Pinot Noir Précoce, Warwickshire 2014 12pc (Lightfoots ,Wentworth £15.99) Uses grapes from both Welcombe Hills and Renishaw Hall. The  Welcombe Hills vineyard is located near Stratford-upon-Avon. Its well drained clay soil and south-facing position makes it one of the most successful northerly vineyards in the world. This wine is full of beautiful red berry flavours, while having matured enough to develop complexity and slightly deeper, vegetal aromas and flavours.

Bolney Pinot Noir 2018, West Sussex (Waitrose £16.99) Elegant, delicate soft ripe red berry flavours and soft tannins. Would go well with roast poultry

Finally, a  red from Wales:

Montgomery Rondo 2017 Montgomery, Powys, Wales (£18.95 StarmoreBoss, Sheffield) Made from two grapes: Rondo, a hybrid red invented by a professor in Czechoslovakia, and Solaris. French oak complementing the delicate flavours. Blackberry and cherry fruits, soft tannins, with an almost spicy finish. Gorgeous.

So there you are. The 2017 vintage was small but excellent wines were produced, 2018 was hot and a good vintage.

Try more of these excellent wines.

Waitrose is a big supporter of English wines and has the biggest selection, but many of the wines are only sold by a few branches near each vineyard.

Prices are not the cheapest because many of the vineyards are small scale and very labour intensive. On the other hand the largest, such as Nyetimber, which produces around 1.3 million bottles a year, can compete well with anyone on quality and price.

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