The Romans introduced the vine to this country, but winemakers ever
since, from the medieval monks at Warden Abbey to the pioneering
oenologist Ray Barrington Brock, have found it fiendishly difficult to
make successful wines in such a marginal climate. They have also found them
equally difficult to sell. Recent years have seen a marked improvement across
the board, both in terms of viticultural and vinification techniques, and in
The authorised grape varieties have been selected for their ability to ripen
in England's adverse and challenging climate. They inlcude the following
varieties, mainly of German origin:
A crossing of Chasselas x Courtillier Musqué. It is often used for dessert
wines because of its naturally high sugars and its susceptibility to `noble
rot'. It has a mouthwatering acidity and pronounced aromas of elderflowers, and
a grapey, intense fruity palate.
Madeleine Angevine 7672
It is a high-yielding, cold-climate resistant grape, which thanks to its
relative low acidity, lends itself well for blending with more high-acid
varieties. On its own it produces light-bodied, fruity wines with a pronounced
A vigorous, early ripening variety, crossing of Riesling x Riesling, once the
core ingredient of the German Liebfraumilch wines, and among the first grapes
planted in the U.K. Its popularity is on the wane.
A Müller-Thurgau crossing with Madeleine Angevine and Calabreser Fröhlich. A
widely planted variety in the UK , thanks to its ability to ripen reliably, and
and its high yields. The wine is quite simple on its own and is often used for
blending in both still and sparkling wines, sugar levels.
A Pinot Noir - Chasselas Rosé - Muscat Hamburg crossing. This grape has earned
a good reputation in the UK, yielding white wines with low acidity, fleshy
texture, delicate Muscat overtones (evocative of a less pronounced
version of Gewürztraminer).
The most widely grown variety in the UK, a heavy cropper heavily and
reliable performer even in cold vintages. It is often used for blending -still
or sparkling wines- , and can even take oak ageing. The single varietal
versions display crisp acidity, with neutral flavours.
This grape is mainly grown in Alsace, where it is usually blended into
`Edelzwicker' and it comes from the Pinot Blanc family. In the UK it is useful
as a sparkling wine base (adding body to the blend), as well as on its own.
A crossing of Silvaner, Riesling and Müller-Thurgau, originating from German
vineyards. A pronounced aromatic grape, with high sugar and lush fruit
character. The best examples of Bacchus wine age well and develop interesting
flavours. This is one of the UK's ameliorateur varieties, capable of producing
With plantings on the increase, it is used for sparkling wines blends, along
with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. There also some good examples made into
still, varietal wine.
A Trollinger (Black Hamburg) and Riesling crossing. This is a very successful
grape in the UK climate, that yeilds ripely fruity wines. Stylistically it
bears many similarities to Riesling
A Silvaner - Riesling and Müller-Thurgau crossing , high in natural sugars and
hence suitable for `late harvest' wines.
A hybrid originating from the Optima and Villard Blanc graes. A new
generation of hybrid varieties bred both for wine quality and disease
resistance. A recent introduction in the English vineyards. Early examples show
wines of good fruit and aromatics. T
Another recently created hybrid from Bacchus x Seyve Villard 12-375, bred for
quality and disease resistance. Currently planted in a few vineyards.
A Müller-Thurgau - Gewürztraminer crossing with quite pronounced, spicy
The vast majority of English wine production is white wines and, over 90% of
that originates from the above varieties. The wines are typically light-bodied,
low in alcohol, perfumed and floral, and with refreshing acidity. Sparkling
wine is the definite style that holds most promise for quality wine
production: Made generally by the traditional mèthode champenoise and from the
classic champagne grapes (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay).
Investment at estates like Nyetimber has found that
England's chalky soil and cool climate are capable of producing sparkling wines
of the highest quality.
Camel Valley in Cornwall also exemplify the quality now found in in these
cool and pleasant lands.