The First of the Summer Wine: Celebrating English Wine Week
The sun is finally shining, the clouds are finally parting and the chill riding every gust of wind is finally drifting away, which can mean only one thing; it’s time to enjoy some wine.
This is only enforced by the fact that we are currently within English Wine Week. What better time to savour a Sauvignon Blanc? Why not please the palate with a Pinot Noir? Who can say no to a sumptuous glass of something sparkling? No one, that’s who, and we Brits know how to handle our wine.
True, we’ve only been known to tackle sparkling wine for the last few decades (not to mention the shoddy label of ‘English wine’ for a lot of swill) but the times have been changing. Most likely due to the rising global temperatures, Britain is now not only capable of creating bonafide wines but beautiful ones at that that have been recognised across the word for their rich flavours, delectable tastes and overall boldness. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what we Brits are known for?
Okay, perhaps that’s a bit of a stretch given the times, but since it is English Wine Week we can at least attempt to recall our glory with a few glorious wines. That’s why I’ll be looking at some the finest examples of English wine available today, as well as some suggestions for what dishes they can enrich with their presence and some spots to visit that offer both, just for good measure.
But first let’s begin with a little bit of history. It was the Romans who brought wine making it England, which on its own shouldn’t be too startling a reveal, but what is startling is their determination. They attempted to establish vineyards as far north as Lincolnshire and most of these ventures were failures, though 40 remained when the time of the Normans came around, primarily being used for communion wine. From that point onwards, England has enjoyed a modest reputation as a fairly good wine maker but it was in the 50’s that we began to pick up the pace, with the oldest vines still producing commercial wines being planted at Lackham College in Lacock. The 70’s saw temperatures escalating and conditions improving for high quality wine, and since then British wine has slowly been on the rise.
Now, let’s start with a surprise story, which comes in the form of the 2015 Bolney Wine Estate Pinot Noir. Available from the Waitrose Cellar, this medium-bodied red is somewhat of a shock due to the almost impossible task of producing a good red wine in the UK. This example shines through though, having won several awards for its strong taste of cherries and toasted oak. I’d say it goes best with venison, most notably with a venison and mushroom stroganoff. The wine accents both of the main ingredients and the heartiness of the dish merits liberal intakes of this wine, generally creating a scrumptious dining experience.
Moving onto a fine example of British white wine, the 2015 Denbies Noble Harvest is not so much pristine white as it is indulgently gold. Made with hand-picked Ortega grapes, the Denbies Noble Harvest 2015 is a rare addition to this list that offers flavours uncommon in many other whites. Enchanting with its tones of nectarines and dried apricots, this wine is certainly sweet enough to be called a treat. I could easily say that this wine is good enough to simply enjoy on its own, but for those looking to enhance the experience it pairs perfectly with an platter of savoury nibbles and bites, such as with a course duck and orange pate, Stilton cheese, grapes and slightly toasted sourdough and Melba toast on the side.
Last but not least we have the 2016 Oxney Organic English Pinot Noir Rose, yet another inclusion that has basked in a wealth of awards. Positively overflowing with the tastes of an English summer, this deliciously delicate wine simply exudes the aromas of raspberries and strawberries and, much like both prior examples, can easily be enjoyed by itself chilled whilst soaking up the sunlight. A divine pairing with this lusciously light wine though would be a creamy seafood risotto, or for those seeking something feather light, an invigorating seafood based salad.
Of course, even amidst the celebration of this week one can’t be expected to simply purchase a bottle of wine a day, especially with the slightly high (albeit merited) prices of these British beauties, though there’s always the delightful alternative of sampling such marvels when dining out. This is where Gourmet Society members can truly be in their element, visiting wonderful venues all over the country where the wine flows like water and the savings on food will encourage your glass to keep filling up.
Those in the London area may wish to visit the charming Pall Mall Wine, a mere stone’s throw from Trafalgar Square this modest spot is warmly welcoming and a cosy spot from which to while away a few hours with good food, good wine and good company. Another fantastic city centre location would be the elegant Wine Bar at 23 Grosvenor Gardens, a truly stunning venue for special dining experiences as well for some casual repose with a few of the eclectic wines available.
A handful of choices outside of London include the tantalising Caviars, a magical spot in Bawtry that’s beautifully decorated and serves an exquisite ensemble of contemporary dishes that each have wonderful wine pairings, as well as the homely Le Mistral, a comfortable venue that puts the focus on French fare and excellent wines.
Wherever you may be when enjoying English Wine Week be sure to treat yourself to anything that takes your fancy, and be sure to give us Brits a chance when sampling some sumptuous wines.
Have a favourite English wine you’d like to tell us about, or anywhere that serves a great collection? Why not let us know in the comments section below or via Facebook and Twitter? And be sure to check out the rest of the gourmet goodness on the Gourmet Society blog!
By Tom Simpkins