In the final article in his English Wine Week series, Peter Ranscombe takes your favourite styles of wine and finds an English alternative.
WITH the names of weird-sounding grape varieties galore appearing on its labels – ranging from bacchus, otega and seyval blanc through to regent, rondo and dornfelder – English wine can sometimes feel like a minefield.
Adding the names of counties that are more familiar from cricket matches than wine appellations doesn’t really help matters much.
Fear not; help is at hand, with an easy guide to navigate your way from your favourite style of wine to an English alternative to try…
I LIKE: Prosecco
WHY NOT TRY? Kingscote Estate Sparkling Brut (£17, Corkk)
Both Italy’s prosecco and Kingscote Estate’s sparkling brut are made using the Charmat or tank method – the second fermentation, which makes the wine fizzy, takes place inside a tank under pressure, rather than in a bottle, as is the case with Champagne, cava and other traditional method sparkling wines. Kingscote’s peachy notes will be familiar to prosecco fans, and there’s enough concentrated fruit to provide balance without eliminating all the freshness.
I LIKE: Sauvignon blanc
WHY NOT TRY? Forty Hall Bacchus 2019 (£17, Feel Good Grapes)
Bacchus has been hailed as England’s answer to sauvignon blanc thanks to its damp hedgerow aromas and flavours of elderflower and asparagus. The example stocked by award-winning wine writer and general top ginger bloke Mike Turner at Feel Good Grapes is a great example – it’s made at Forty Hall in London, a social enterprise that supports the health and wellbeing of its local community, while Turner plants a tree for each bottle of wine his website sells, offsetting the carbon dioxide emissions involved in each purchase.
I LIKE: Pinot grigio
WHY NOT TRY? The Winery by Laneberg Pinot G 2018 (£14.10, lanebergwine.com)
A nice simple substitution – instead of your usual Italian pinot grigio, head for Tyneside and Elise Lane’s winery, where she used grapes from Leicestershire to make her Pinot G, with the G standing for gris or grigio or Geordie or Gateshead; you take your pick. Whichever way you decide to interpret the label, the result is the same when it comes to the liquid, which has classic green apple, pear and floral notes, plus a touch of spicy white pepper on the finish.
I LIKE: Champagne, daaaaarling!
WHY NOT TRY? Gusbourne Estate Brut Reserve (£35, Woodwinters)
We’re spoiled for choice when it comes to English sparkling wines made using the traditional method, the same technique that’s employed in Champagne, with the second bubble-inducing fermentation taking place inside the bottle. I’ve opted for the warmer and riper growing conditions in Kent, where winemaker Charlie Holland produces beautiful bubbles, year after year.
I LIKE: Beaujolais
WHY NOT TRY? Biddenden Vineyards Gamay Noir 2019 (£17, Quercus Wines)
Gamay’s spiritual home lies in France’s Beaujolais region but, in the warm summer of 2018, the variety found excellent ripeness in Kent and was used to produce this inky English red, with a touch of wood smoke on the nose and red cherry and blackberry on the palate. I know I’m not meant to be swayed by packaging, but the tall, fluted bottle enhances what was already an attractive proposition.
I LIKE: ‘Natural’ wine, hipster beards and drinking my lemonade from a jam jar
WHY NOT TRY? Ancre Hill Triomph Pet Nat (£17.95, Cork & Cask)
Not so much a category as an amorphous blob, but “natural” wine is gaining a growing following, as we all become more interested in the provenance of both our food and our drink. Ancre Hill in Wales farms organically and biodynamically, and produces this pétillant naturel – or “pet nat” to its friends – by blending together the wines from two years and letting the fermentation finish in the bottle, whichs adds a gentle fizz. Bramble, blackcurrant jam and subtly smoky flavours are the order of the day and well worth a wee look.
If you’ve missed any of the English Wine Week articles then catch-up on bottles made by Scots, wines stocked by independent merchants, a supermarket sweep of options, sparkling wines, still wines, urban wineries, Welsh wines, and Plumpton College.