14 Oct 2019 / English Wine

English-vineyard-within-the-vines-on-a-sunny-day-1024x793
Share

Once upon a time, English wine making was little more than a hobby for a small number of private post-war pioneers. Today, English wine is serious business, making its mark on a world stage and widely celebrated for its incredible quality. When exactly did the English wine resurgence happen? And why?

To answer those questions and more, we’ve put together a quick guide to English wine. It features some of the wine questions we are asked here at Three Choirs Vineyards in Gloucestershire – and comes at a time of celebration for English wine: WineGB stated a record 3 million vines have been planted this year (2019) in England and Wales. Nearly double last year. Equating to an additional 690 hectares of vineyards and a 24% increase in the overall land now under vine!

When did grapes come to England?

Grapes came to England with the Romans. At first, grapes were probably used as ornaments to remind Romans of life back in Italy; vines were probably grown in England a little later to satisfy the Romans thirst for wine. 

But it was when the Norman nobles arrived with William the Conqueror in 1066 that viniculture really took off in England. 

At the time of the compilation of the Domesday Survey in the late eleventh century, for instance, vineyards were recorded in 46 places in southern England, from East Anglia through to modern-day Somerset. Although much of this wine was being produced to be used as communion wine in monasteries and on ecclesiastical estates. 

Wine production continued in England throughout the Middle Ages and into the 16th century (by the time King Henry VIIIth ascended the throne there were 139 sizeable vineyards in England and Wales). Most vineyards were connected to monasteries and with the Reformation most vineyards disappeared as the monasteries fell into disrepair.

It was not until 1936 when a man called George Ordish planted vines in Wessex and the South of England, that there was a rediscovery of English wines and winemaking. Thankfully, more pioneers followed in his footsteps and thus began a rapid increase in the number of English vineyards, with a particular boom of commercial vineyards in the 80s and 90s. The rest, as they say, is history.

How do you grow grapes in England?

As you’d expect, vines need the right conditions to thrive and grow, which is why not all regions in the UK are wine-producing. Even in the best wine growing regions, such as the south west (where we are based) and the south east, our cooler climate makes wine growing a challenge. England also has one of the shortest growing seasons in Europe, which means we must choose grape varieties that can fully develop flavour and complexity whilst retaining a greater level of freshness and vibrancy in our wines.

Harvest Time at Three Choirs Vineyards
Harvest Time at Three Choirs Vineyards

To grow vines and grapes successfully at home (which is more than possible) you need the right spot – your warmest, sunniest and most sheltered corner, ideally south-facing where the soil is well drained. 

We can offer a consultancy service for those wishing to plant vines on a commercial scale.

How many vineyards are there in England?

There are approximately 164 wineries and 522 commercial vineyards in England with 150 vineyards open to the public.  We are one of England’s oldest vineyards, and we’re open to the public [Tuesday to Sunday] for wine tours and tastings.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of viticulture takes place in the south, where the climate is slightly warmer and drier. Although as temperatures rise with climate change, wine making may begin to proliferate across the entire country. For now, the majority of commercial vineyards tend to be located in the southern strip of England’s coast, from Cornwall to Kent.

What are the most popular grape types grown in English vineyards?

English Sparkling Wine Classic Cuvee n/v by Three Choirs Vineyards

The most popular grapes grown in English vineyards are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Bacchus, as well as Pinot Meunier and Ortega. 

Here at Three Choirs Vineyard, we produce a 2017 Bacchus  – it’s an elegant, dry and aromatic wine, popular with our diners and our weekend guest. We also produce a gold award-winning classic sparkling wine, Classic Cuvee n/v, shown on the left, made to traditional methods and to exceptional quality. 

Interestingly, sparkling wine still makes up the lion’s share of English wines being produced per year. Still white wine comes in at second, whilst the remaining come from red wines or rosé wine.

We produce two red wines and one rosé wines at our Gloucestershire vineyard: a Ravens Hill 2016, a Hampshire Oak Aged Red 2016 and a Rosé 2017.

We also have a number of white wines: a Siegerrebe 2016, a May Hill 2016, a Coleridge Hill 2017 and a Willowbrook 2018.

Where can I taste English Wine in the UK?

With nearly 150 English vineyards open to visitors, it might be hard to decide where to go to taste English wine in the UK. 

At Three Choirs Vineyards not only can you enjoy tasting our English wines in the beautiful, rolling Cotswolds’ countryside, you can also stay amongst our vines overnight. 

Vineyard View Room view out over the terrace

On site, we have Luxury Vineyard Lodges and Vineyard View Rooms for you to choose from, plus a Brasserie serving the best local food paired perfectly with our homegrown wines. We promise, tasting English wine here, with us, will be a wine experience you’ll never forget.

View All Rooms  Wine Tasting Experience

Winter Offer: 1 Night B&B for 2 in a Vineyard View Room

Winter Special offer, our vineyards are a wonderful place to relax during the Winter months the vines are resting and getting ready for the new season. In contrast the Winery is busy fermenting and blending last seasons crop.

This voucher entitles the lucky recipient to a one night stay at our vineyard in Gloucestershire in one of our Vineyard View Rooms situated next to the Brasserie overlooking the vines and includes breakfast, Winery visit and Wine Tasting plus 20% discount on purchases of 6 bottles of wine or more.

Available any night of the week during our Winter Offer period which is November to end of March 2020, but please remember we have a two night stay policy on Friday and Saturday nights. Available at Three Choirs Gloucestershire only. Excludes 14th & 15th February 2020

  • 1 Nights B&B for 2 guests in a Vineyard View room
  • Includes 4pm Winery Tour and Wine Tasting
  • Full English Breakfast for 2 people
  • Valid during Winter season: November to end of March 2020 Excludes 14th & 15th February 2020
  • Can be used outside of our Winter dates but a supplement will be charged
  • Valid any day of the week, please note we often have a 2 night Minimum stay at weekend.
  • Please call us on 01531 890223 to make your booking.
  • Why not add a Brasserie voucher for dinner?
£135.00 By Email Add To Basket

Winter Offer: 1 Night B&B for 2 in a Lodge Room

Winter Special offer, our vineyards are a wonderful place to relax during the Winter months the vines are resting and getting ready for the new season. In contrast the Winery is busy fermenting and blending last seasons crop.

This voucher entitles the lucky recipient to a one night stay at our vineyard in Gloucestershire in one of our Lodge Rooms situated approx 500m from the Brasserie nestled amongst the vines and includes breakfast, 4 pm Winery visit and Wine Tasting plus 20% discount on purchases of 6 bottles of wine or more.

Available any night of the week during our Winter Offer period which is November to end of March 2020, but please remember we have a two night stay policy on Friday and Saturday nights. Available at Three Choirs Gloucestershire only. PLEASE NOTE we only have 3 lodges and weekends are very popular and sell out early. Excludes 14th & 15th February 2020

  • 1 Nights B&B for 2 guests in a Lodge room
  • Includes 4pm Winery Tour and Wine Tasting
  • Full English Breakfast
  • Valid during Winter season: November to end of March Excludes 14th & 15th February 2020
  • Can be used outside of our Winter dates but a supplement will be charged
  • Valid any day of the week, please note we often have a 2 night minimum stay at weekends.
  • Please call us on 01531 890223 to make your booking.
  • Weekend dates are very popular please book early.
  • Why not add a Brasserie voucher for dinner?
£155.00 By Email Add To Basket

View All Gift Vouchers

 
View Basket
Google Rating
4.5