This is an incredibly apt post to be writing today, as I look out on another grey sky in London. England (and Wales) is famous, or should I say infamous, for dreadful weather! It always rains here doesn’t it? Grapes need sunshine more than anything to ripen properly. How does it work over here?
English and Welsh winemakers have to be clever with what grapes they grow. They need either cool climate international grapes, or in a lot of circumstances they need to use hybrids. Hybrids are a different species of vine than the usual international varieties, not always recognized abroad as “wine”, but suited to the climate in the UK (and Canada and northern Germany etc.).
Down in Kent and Sussex the Champagne varieties rule supreme. As a reminder, there are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. If you think about it, this area of England is roughly on the same lines of latitude as Champagne, and has very similar weather patterns. No wonder that the sparkling wines made here (using the same methods as in Champagne) are often rivaling their illustrious French cousins in international competitions!
Elsewhere it’s about hybrids. I’ve recently been drinking Rondo (refreshing and fruity red) and Bacchus (a cross of a cross, not a hybrid, but aromatic and light white) from the New Forest. They’re chosen in order to cope with the climate, but also their resistance to area specific threats like spring frosts and fungal diseases.
The wife also rented me a vine up at Holmfirth Vineyard up in Yorkshire. Yes Yorkshire!!! It’s a bit nippy up there at times, but it’s in the Pennines’ rain shadow (Manchester gets all the rain!), and there’s plenty of sunshine during the year. Seyval Blanc is the grape up there, and I’m looking forward to getting my first case soon.
Anyone think that Kent/Sussex wines are too expensive, or think that drinking hybrid varieties are beneath them? Get off your high horse! You’re missing out!
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