7 English Wine Facts

Keep your Bordeaux, Tuscany & California, you don't need to go far for a fab wine tour - cheers Kent!

I’ve never been any great knowledge on wine, (beyond just knowing what the bottom of the bottle looks like) so I was surprised at just how much even an old philistine like me enjoyed the Wine Tour at Chapel Down Winery when I visited recently to check out their new super swanky tasting facility, (known as The Wine Sanctuary). I learnt, for starters, that these days we Brits are leading the way when it comes to light, bright wines, with a particularly strong line in sparkling wines – and that Kent’s own vineyards are amongst some of the best. Chapel Down itself is receiving world-wide recognition (having won around 18 medals at international wine awards and still counting). So it’s no wonder Chapel Down is the official wine supplier to Downing Street and that Kate and Wills chose it to serve at their wedding.

So since it’s English Wine Week (which runs from May 27 until June 4) I’m finally getting round to posting about this, my new favourite subject. Grab me one of those teacher’s pointy-sticks and listen up to some fun wine facts…

1/ Priorities please, first let’s raise a glass of English Sparkling Wine to our home-grown scientist Christopher Merret, who put the fizz into flat old wine way back in 1662.

2/ The Romans — those suave, sophisticates — loved quaffing a glass or two of Sancerre, feet-up watching some Gladitorial blood-fest. Brutal and true, but they did drag us ale-swilling Celts kicking and screaming into the first century by planting vines right up to Lincolnshire.

Chapel Down’s CEO, Frazer Thompson, at the launch of the new tasting facility, The Wine Sanctuary

3/ Drink local my friends, drink local. Us booze-loving Brits slurp around 816 million bottles of wine annually, only 1% of that is English or Welsh wine, but times they are a changin’…

4/ English Sparkling Wine is the new Champagne, it’s official. We are scooping awards from around the world. Not convinced? Well, sorry but the experts are – and English wines are now exported to Paris — a hard city to crack, as anyone who’s ever visited with pidgin French will know.

5/ And talking of champers, did you know that Southern England’s soil — is it pretentious if I say terroir? Go on, humour me, is similar to the Champagne region, especially now we actually have a summer. Get digging, because the same chalk seam runs from Northern France under the Channel to the Home Counties.

6/ Kent is a hot bed of all things English Wine. Exhibit A) Think Chapel Down, Hush Heath, Biddenden and Gusbourne Wineries to name but a few.

7/ To end, a random yet true fact. London’s East End wasn’t always hipsters, high rises and baggy-trousered Nineties boybands.  Yup way back circa 1660, a certain Lady Batten grew grapes on her country estate in erm, Walthamstow producing a “very good” red wine according to Pepys. Puts the term Grand Crew *cough* I mean Cru in a totally different light. And Château Walthamstow? Come on, it has a ring.

Even if you don’t know your Bacchus from your Pinot Noir, Chapel Down, situated a few miles from the pretty Kentish village of Tenterden, hosts lots of fun events and gift tours so you don’t have to be a connaisseur to enjoy getting more familiar with the best of British.

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