By Jack Peat, TLE Editor
England is among the only prominent wine drinking regions in the World that is completely devoid of an identity. Black and Blue, a classic steak house with outlets in Borough Market, Covent Garden and Waterloo amongst others, lists no fewer than ten wine-growing countries on its red wine list alone. Their varietal smorgasbord of robust clarets is typical of British consumers who have enjoyed trade from across the New and Old Worlds for centuries leaving us awash with choice, but devoid of a personality.
The reason for this is that we Brits are consumers of wine, not producers. London has long been a centre of wine commerce which has created free movement of imports from European and faraway destinations. An average supermarket isle shelves wines from just about every conceivable wine-growing country there is, and our pubs, bars and restaurants always ensure there at least three hurdles before you can take a sip of your vino: “Is that a glass or bottle, large or small, of Chilean, New Zealand or Italian Pinot Grigio sir?”
Perplexed drinks orders aside, this level of consumption has led to a notable personality dilemma. Ask what the nation’s go-to wine is and I would be hard fetched to give you an answer. For the most part we, as a nation, we enjoy sweeter wines and perhaps err on the side of quantity over quality, but there is evidence to suggest that our pallets are becoming more sophisticated.
What’s more, a boom in English vineyards has also led to consumers drinking wine more suited to British terroir. Pinot Noir is expected to be the nation’s new favourite wine this October and throughout 2016. For the first year, sales of Pinot Noir has increased by 11 per cent in 2015 according to the WSTA market report. This is also being seen in one of England’s wine estates. Bolney Wine Estate in Sussex has noticed the same trend with their own wine sales, reporting a 100 per cent increase in Pinot Noir sales.
Supermarkets across the UK are also seeing a growing trend for red wine and Pinot Noir is increasing in popularity. Becky Hull MW, English & Welsh Wine Buyer at Waitrose said: “Sam Linter at Bolney Estate continues to triumph, making truly exceptional English wines. The Bolney Estate Pinot Noir has been a great favourite in our range for many years. Sales have increased 600% in the last year alone and the 2014 vintage is tasting really well, with ripe cherry fruit flavours and a warm, spicy finish. We’re looking forward to welcoming the 2015 to our shelves in due course, and sharing it with our customers.”
As the English wine harvest gets underway and continues throughout October, some producers are predicting an excellent volume of grapes this year. For the English Family Vineyard, Bolney Wine Estate, this will prove crucial to keep up with the growing demand for the Pinot Noir.
Sam Linter, MD and head wine maker at Bolney Wine Estate explains: ‘At Bolney, our early ripening Pinot Noir flowers about 2 weeks earlier and subsequently the verasion (onset of ripening) was earlier. The growing season got off to a great start and despite the frost in March we did have a lot of warmth and sunshine. The very hot weather around Wimbledon was great for flowering and the sun ripened the wood which had benefits later on in the growing season.”
To keep up with increased demand for its quality English wine, Bolney Wine Estate will be using a state of the art press which will increase production five times over than that of its previous press. The family run business has had a great 2015 after its Pinot Gris wine was chosen to be the first English wine to be served at Wimbledon. The Pinot Gris was also served on first class British Airways flights this summer.