Archive for June, 2011

Sparkling English Wine is up and running..!

Jun. 28th 2011


logo sparkling english wine

After months of hard graft designing, coding and driving around Sussex and Kent, we are pleased to be able to launch, a website dedicated to the fantastic fizz that is produced right here in the England.


We’ve visited vineyards, tasted wines, taken photographs, shot video, tasted more wines… hang on, that all sounds rather lovely. Honestly, it has been hard.


We are honoured to be working with some of the best of England’s sparkling wine producers, and hope to extend the portfolio in the future. We aim to have the widest selection of quality sparkling wine made in England available on the site.


As well as being able to purchase the range of wines, we try to portray the personal story of the vineyards and their owners, using photos that have been taken by the producers and professional photographers.


We will be linking further with as many producers as possible to provide a tour booking facility to enable people to visit the beautiful vineyards and wineries, which are set in wonderful locations around England.


So, we’ve launched and look forward to offering an evolving insight into sparkling English wine producers and production. Look out for our guest bloggers from the wine industry giving their slant on the world of wine and how England slots into it…


Posted by Tom Jones | in Site News | No Comments »

Sparkling performance! British vineyard to rival the French | Mail Online

Jun. 28th 2011



Award-winning English vineyards will soon be producing a record amount of sparkling wine – to rival the finest French champagne.

More of the grapes used to make traditional champagne in France are now being grown in the UK than ever before.

And with vineyards on the south coast of England just a couple of hundred miles from the Champagne region, the climate is good enough for makers to produce bottles of fizz to match the French.

A sparkling wine made in Sussex has just been judged the best in the world – and good enough to be served up at the Queen’s official banquet to welcome US President Obama to Britain.

UK-made sparkling wines are now so successful that the French are quietly buying into vineyards here and even establishing their own.

Top winemaker Richard Balfour-Lynn who last week opened an extension to his winery in Marden, Kent warned that the British climate made it difficult to produce still wines.

He said: ‘We should be focusing on sparkling wines to challenge the French and everybody else.



Warm: Vineyards in the south of England like this one in Cobham, Surrey, are close enough to the Champagne region to produce bottles of fizz that can rival the French

‘There are some good UK white wines but it is impossible to compete with New World producers and we would struggle to make a good red.

‘In terms of competing with Chile or South Africa for example our white wine will remain as minor interest.’

Balfour-Lyons, who owns the Malmaison and Hotel du Vin groups, added: ‘The UK pays the same duty rates as the other European countries and this make it more difficult for English wines to compete against wines from Chile, South Africa or Australia.

‘For English still wines to succeed quality must be protected and the prices need to be competitive – and without some sort of Government subsidy on duty this may prove difficult.’

The UK Vineyards Association which represents almost all the UK’s 160 commercial wine makers, is reporting a major rise in the planting of pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay, the three champagne grape varieties.

Mr Balfour-Lynn said: ‘Our climate is ideal for producing the right level of acidity and mouthwatering freshness which is vital for good quality champagne and sparkling wines.

‘We have the opportunity to compete with the best champagne houses thanks to our climate, soil and wine-making skills.’

The prestigious award for the best English wine of the year recently went to a sparkling white made by Ridgeview in Ditchling Common, Sussex, who provided the wine served at the recent state banquet for President Obama.

via Sparkling performance! British vineyard to rival the French | Mail Online.

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Will Lyons on Wine: England’s Sparkling Dream –

Jun. 27th 2011



From the highest point of Rathfinny Estate, perched on the edge of the South Downs in East Sussex, one has an unbroken view of the gentle foothills of southern England’s Cuckmere Valley. On a clear day, beyond the fields of wheat and oilseed rape, one can just make out the mouth of the River Cuckmere as it meanders gently into the English Channel.

But today isn’t a clear day. It may be the height of the English summer, but the rain is lashing down, blanketing the valley with a sheen of mist. So we’re not getting outside. Instead, we’re sheltering in the car, admiring the view and trying to envisage the 650 hectares in front of us planted with vines. As the rain batters off the bonnet, I can’t help but openly wonder whether Mark Driver was perhaps a little too optimistic when he decided to invest more than £10 million of the money he earned as a hedge-fund manager at Horseman Capital Management to plant what will be England’s largest single vineyard.

“It will be O.K.,” says Mr. Driver, Rathfinny’s owner. “We can handle a wet summer as long as we get a warm and dry September. As well as May, there are two key dates when it comes to making wine in the U.K.: There is Wimbledon fortnight [the last two weeks of June], when the vine sets its buds; if the weather is hot, you will have a good crop for the following year. The other critical time is September. This is the key ripening month, and a cool or wet September can lead to unripe or diseased grapes.” But Mr. Driver plans to hedge against this by planting wet climate clones, which produce small, open clusters that are more robust when facing disease. To help him oversee the staggered planting, he has hired Cameron Roucher, one of New Zealand’s most highly rated viticulturists. He has also recognized that, in England, grape varieties such as Bacchus and Sylvaner might grow, but on the High Street, they don’t sell. So at Rathfinny, they are planting the classic French varieties grown in Champagne: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay and a little Riesling and Pinot Gris—the idea being to produce the first bottles of sparkling wine by 2017.

English wine has come a long way since Lt. Col. Robert Gore-Browne and his wife Margaret planted vineyards at Beaulieu in Hampshire in the 1950s. Today, a handful of U.K. producers are making sparkling wine, some of which have won international awards. I’ve still to be convinced of the quality of the majority of English wine on the market, but sparkling wine, such as this example from Ridgeview, does impress. A light, golden color in the glass, when poured it has a creamy mousse that, with time, opens up an attractive note of apples on the nose. In the mouth, the wine is soft, with just a hint of that yeasty character one finds in Champagne.

“Next April we start planting,” says Mr. Driver. “The first stage is to establish top-quality fruit, which we hope will produce top-quality wine. People have to realize here in England we can produce world-class sparkling wine. I passionately believe that.” He has grounds to. Less than 60 kilometers away lie two of England’s most celebrated wineries: Nyetimber and Ridgeview. In a blind tasting held by wine magazine Decanter, Ridgeview was deemed to be of a higher quality than Champagne. The two estates form a growing cluster of wineries, which includes Denbies in Surrey, Chapel Down in Kent and Camel Valley in Cornwall, that are forging a reputation for clean, dry, sparkling wine made in a cool-climate style, with delicate, floral fruit and refreshing, light acidity. It is this that has persuaded wannabe winemakers like Mr. Driver not to scour the foothills of Tuscany or the picturesque valleys of France for a vineyard, but to stay at home and invest in the English countryside.

It’s a big project. There are plans to convert the old grain stores into a hi-tech winery and restore two ancient flint buildings. Mr. Driver has also enrolled in the viticulture course at nearby Plumpton College, which he credits with fueling a local industry that has gone from virtually nonexistent in the 1950s to supporting more than 1,200 hectares under vine today, with 116 wineries producing, on average, two million bottles a year. “We now have the personnel with skills and knowledge learned in England to support the industry,” he says. “These may go abroad, but hopefully they will come back.”

Actually, as we sit amid the wheat fields of southern England, Mr. Driver’s vision doesn’t seem that unrealistic. On the edge of Rathfinny, there is a patch of meadowland where there is evidence of a Roman settlement. “My suspicion is they would have had vines,” he says. “After all, evidence shows that 2,000 years ago, it was considerably warmer in England.” It’s been a long time coming, but if all goes to plan, Mr. Driver will soon realize his goal of growing grapes once again on the slopes of Rathfinny.

via Will Lyons on Wine: England’s Sparkling Dream –

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Four square for Ridgeview | ukvine

Jun. 27th 2011



For the fourth year in a row, Sussex vineyard Ridgeview Wine Estate has been the wine of the year at the annual English and Welsh Wine of the Year competition held by the United Kingdom Vineyards Association (UKVA). For the third year in a row, and the fourth in five years, Sam Lindo of Camel Valley Vineyard won the McAlpine Trophy for Winemaker of the Year.

Weeks after one of their wines was served to Barack Obama in London and Mike Roberts was awarded the MBE for services to English wine, Ridgeview picked up the Gore-Browne Trophy for their Grosvenor Blanc de Blancs 2000, bottled in magnums. The wine also scooped the trophy for Best Sparkling Wine. Their 2001 vintage bottled in magnums scooped this same accolade last year.

This year, 274 wines were submitted from 78 vineyards, and is the highest number of entries this competition has ever received. More medals than ever before have been awarded, with nearly 90% of the entries gaining a Gold, Silver or Bronze medal. The results revealed a broad mix of winners from large and small producers and include a number of first time entries from new vineyards.

The wines were tasted to international standards by a panel of six judges. Only Masters of Wine judge in this competition, bringing with them their wealth of experience, expertise and tasting to international standards. The judges this year were Susan McCraith MW (Chairman), Patricia Stefanowicz MW, Maggie McNie MW, Robin Crameri MW, David Bird MW and Anthony Foster MW.

The competition took place over two days (June 13 and 14) in Bury St Edmunds, hosted by the East Anglian Winegrowers Association. Bacchus remains the favourite amongst aromatic still whites, with no fewer than four of the main Trophies going to this single variety, and gaining just under half of all the Gold medals.

“We were immensely impressed with the number of entries and the overall quality this year, which is why so many went on to win an award,” commented McCraith

via Four square for Ridgeview | ukvine.

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BBC News – Royal family to set up vineyard in Windsor Great Park

Jun. 27th 2011



Royal family to set up vineyard in Windsor Great Park

Windsor Great Park was formerly the private hunting ground of Windsor Castle

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The royal family is setting up a vineyard in Windsor Great Park to produce English wine.

More than 16,500 vines bearing champagne grape varieties will be planted in 3 hectares (7.4 acres) of the park, owned by the Crown Estate.

Laithwaites Wine, tenant farmers on the royal estates, said they were “extremely proud to be invited by the Royal Farms” to work on the project.

The first harvest is predicted to be in about three years’ time.

In a private seeding event, the wine company will plant chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier varieties on an unconfirmed date next week.

‘Coup’ for country

Michael Roberts, chairman of English Wine Producers, said the royal family’s interest was a coup for the country’s vineyard owners.

“This is the sincerest form of accolade to a whole industry.

“It’s interesting to see how enthusiastic they must be to actually allow a small part of Windsor Great Park to be planted,” he said.

Laithwaites spokesman Simon McMurtrie added: “As champions of English wine we are delighted to do what we can to help boost its production and popularity in this country at this time.”

A Windsor Castle spokeswoman confirmed the vines were being planted but said no further comment would be given as it was a “private estate” matter.

English wine and sparkling wine was served at the royal wedding on 29 April.

via BBC News – Royal family to set up vineyard in Windsor Great Park.

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English Wine Producers – News

Jun. 27th 2011



English Sparkling Wine v Champagne – who wins?

A revealing tasting took place recently, organised by leading English wine expert Stephen Skelton MW (and author of and as well as the definitive guide to the vineyards of the UK – The UK Vineyards Guide

A stellar line up of tasters (in alphabetical order) took part: Suzie Barrie MW (Winchester Wine School proprietor who wrote her MW dissertation on Champagne), Dee Blackstock MW (Champagne and sparkling wine buyer for Waitrose), Sue Daniels (MW student and wine technologist for Marks and Spencer) Michael Edwards (journalist and author of several books on Champagne), Victoria Moore (journalist, wine columnist for the Daily Telegraph), Jancis Robinson MW, OBE (journalist and wine-polymath), Julia Trustram Eve (English Wine Producers), plus Stephen himself.

52 English Sparkling Wines – all from award winning producers – against six non-UK sparkling wines (four Champagnes and two others) were set out and tasted blind. The wines were arranged in three flights: 11 Blanc de Blancs, which  included Sainsbury’s Blanc de Blancs Champagne, produced by Duval Leroy, (£18.49), 15 Rosés including Sainsbury’s Etienne Dumont NV £18.99) and 32 blends which included 2 Champagnes – Moët & Chandon NV (£30.99) and  Sainsbury’s Defontaine Premier Cru Champagne (£19.99) – and 2 other sparklers: Cloudy Bay’s New Zealand fizz Pelorus 2006 (£17.99) and Codorniu’s top Cava (£12.99).

The Champagnes were carefully chosen; the Moët because it is the world’s largest Champagne brand, the UK’s favourite and considered by most to be the benchmark for NV Champagnes, and the Sainsbury’s Champagnesbecause they are recognised as offering excellent quality and value for money. The Pelorus vintage is one of New Zealand’s best and the Cava – Codorniu –Spain’s top producer with over 150 years of experience in sparkling wine. The wines were also chosen because they were in the same price range as UK-sparklers are selling – £12.90 to £36.99.

It is interesting to note that of the first four  top wines, three of them (apart from being English!) were Chardonnay dominant, with the top two, both from Ridgeview being 2 different vintages of their 100% Chardonnay, Grosvenor.  The third wine in the line up was the rosé Champagne from Sainsbury’s, a worthy contender.  Running in a close fourth was new sparkling wine estate, Gusbourne, showing its quality colours with its first release of its blend.

Commented Stephen: “One thing is certain: the best UK sparkling wines can more than hold their own with Champagne. Although Champagne occupied four of the top ten places, that still meant that six were English and with only one point separating the top twelve wines, it was all very close. RidgeView undoubtedly were the stars of the tasting and with their wines (I include wines they made for both themselves and their clients) occupying ten out of the top thirty wines, there is no doubt that the team is on a roll. Their win at the Decanter World Wine Awards last year (Best World Wide Sparkling Wine over £10) with the Grosvenor 2006 was no fluke.”

A happy surprise in the top 20 were two sparklers made from non-traditional grapes:  Breaky Bottom with their 1005 Seyval Blanc, John Inglis Hall 2006 (20) and Davenport’s 100% Reichenstenier, Limney Estate Blanc de Blancs 2005 (17).

As Stephen concludes: “The best producers, those using the right varieties and clones, making their wine with care, ageing them for an appropriate length of time, and putting them on the market with a dosage that both respects the wine and the sector of the market they are aiming at, can produce wines that are truly world-class and at prices that are in no way out of line with the competition”.

via English Wine Producers – News.

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