English Wine Week: Bottles in Scottish shops

In the second in his series of articles to mark English Wine Week, Peter Ranscombe looks at the bottles available from Scotland’s independent wine merchants.

ONE of the biggest stumbling blocks to trying English wine for the first time is finding it on the shop shelves or restaurant wine lists.

Walk into most decent-sized bars or eateries in London and you’ll find at least one fairly local bottle on show.

On our side of the border, the spread has been somewhat slower.

But a growing number of independent bottle shops and – before the lockdown – restaurants are dipping their toes into English wine…

Woodwinters – Gusbourne 

Woodwinters – with its shops in Bridge of Allan, Edinburgh and Inverness – has enjoyed a long-running relationship with Gusbourne, one of my favourite English wine producers.

We’ll meet winemaker Charlie Holland’s still wines later in the week, but Gusbourne is best known for its bubbles, made from its own grapes grown on its estate in Kent and further along the south coast in West Sussex.

There’s always a ripeness to Holland’s wines, which comes from planting clones of pinot noir and chardonnay that are favoured in Burgundy and which give more concentrated fruit flavours in the wines – and make the juice good for still as well as sparkling.

All four of Gusbourne’s sparklers – brut, blanc de blanc, blanc de noir and rosé – are worth exploring, but I’ve opted for the Gusbourne Rosé (£40, Woodwinters), with its mix of concentrated ripe raspberry and fresher cranberry flavours to balance its crisp acidity.

Wine Line Scotland – Digby Fine English

Digby Fine English has been a regular feature at the Fizz Feast sparkling wine festivals in Edinburgh organised by Diana Thompson from Wine Events Scotland and so I was very excited when wholesaler Alexander Wines began distributing its bottles north of the Border.

Then, I got even more excited when Alexander launched its Wine Line Scotland online retail site, which included the English fizz.

Again, all three variants are worthy of a look, but the Digby Fine English Brut (£30, Wine Line Scotland) is my favourite of the trio thanks to the warmth and toastiness of its tastes, with brown bread, butter, red apple and cinnamon.

There is all the classic English sparkling wine acidity, but it’s nice balanced by the fruit, which is also the case with the rosé and the 2010 vintage brut.

Exel Wines – Balfour Hush Heath

If you’ve not come across Perth-based online retailer Exel Wines then (1) where have you been hiding and (2) you’re in for a treat when you start to explore its range and its competitive prices – plus the level of detail about each wine on its website is excellent.

I was really pleased to find the Balfour Hush Heath Estate Leslie’s Reserve (£27.75, Exel Wines) on the site – Hush Heath estate in Kent was one of the first English wine producers that caught my attention, for still as well as sparkling wines.

Leslie’s Reserve is a different style of sparkler; while most English fizz needs a number of years to age in their bottles to help soften its acidity, this example is made to be drunk young.

That means there’s a sweeter dosage – the mix of liquid and sugar added to balance the wine before it goes on sale – here at 14 grams of sugar per litre of wine, which helps to balance the high acidity, with really fragrant floral notes on the nose and lots of refreshing lemon juice, green apple and grapefruit flavours on the palate from its mix of chardonnay and pinot noir.

The Fine Wine Company – Nyetimber

The Fine Wine Company has a shop in Portobello, beside Edinburgh’s seaside, and a vast array of wines available to order through its website, including lots of English wines by the case.

In terms of single bottles, it also stocks one of the pillars of the English wine industry – Nyetimber.

Arguably England’s best-known wine producer, the Nyetimber Classic Cuvee (£34.95, The Fine Wine Company) is the bar by which much English fizz is judged.

Lots of red apple and lemon curd aromas lead into apple crumble-like oats and orchard fruit on the palate, balancing its fresh acidity.

Tomorrow – check out English wines that are available from supermarkets in Scotland.

And catch-up on yesterday’s article about Scots – and adopted Scots – who are making wine in England.