Monday, July 21, 2008

Joanna Simon in The Sunday Times, July 6, 2008: English Wine

If you want cheap wine, look away now and don’t buy English. But if you want something crisp, light and reviving – still or sparkling – to drink as an aperitif, then English and Welsh should be on your radar; in fact, top of your list if you’re feeling even faintly patriotic.

I admit to having had mixed feelings about our home-grown wines (don’t call them British, by the way: British wine is cheap fortified stuff made from concentrate). There have always been admirable ones: never knowingly underpriced, but of international quality and distinctively English/Welsh in style - and nothing short of a triumph of will and skill over the UK climate, high taxes, land and labour costs. But sifting through the mediocre to find the worthwhile has been a bit of a lottery.

There are still poor wines, but quality across the board has been rising steadily. The big supermarkets have picked up on this, so you don’t need to live near a vineyard to collect something good this summer and the 33 English and Welsh wines distributed regionally in Waitrose stores are all available from

2006 Chapel Down Bacchus Reserve, £12.99
Delicious, tangy, floral, passionfruit flavoured white (Selfridges; the non Reserve is also good, Waitrose, £8.99).

2007 English White, £9,99
Fragrant, leafy, elderflower and grapefruit flavour. One of a good new trio (Marks & Spencer).

Taste the Difference English Sparkling Rosé, £17.99
Fresh, strawberry-scented, off-dry sparkling pink (Sainsbury’s).

“The bacchus grape is England’s answer to sauvignon”
Anorak Fact: Although it can taste like French sauvignon when grown in the UK, bacchus is a German variety