English Wines: Spotlight on Kent and Sussex
For many wine consumers and aficionados, England is better known to be a vibrant wine consumer rather than a producer. For instance, archeological evidence from British tombs of
Belgic lords from the 1st century BC indicates that wine was part of their culture at least. However, despite being a relatively new addition to the world of wine producers, English wines have garnered a reputation for their unique flavour profiles and exceptional quality. England boasts more than 450 wineries and produces 3.15m bottles produced a year.
England's popular varieties include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Ortega. Although vineyards are found across England, its most exclusive regions are Kent and Sussex, producing stellar sparkling and still wines.
Kent wine region: England’s Garden of Eden.
The Kent wine region in England has emerged as a vibrant and promising wine-producing area in recent years. Situated in the southeastern part of the country, Kent benefits from a temperate maritime climate, fertile soils, and favourable growing conditions that contribute to producing high-quality wines.
The region benefits from the warming effects of the Gulf Stream, which helps to moderate temperatures and create mild winters and warm summers. Kent's soils also play a crucial role in producing exceptional wines. These are predominantly composed of chalk and limestone, similar to the renowned soils found in the Champagne region of France. These provide excellent drainage which gives a distinct mineral characteristic to the wines, adding complexity and depth of flavour.
These favourable climatic conditions of Kent's terroir have earned the region the nickname “Garden of Eden” of England.
In fact, its climate characteristics similar to Champagne led to French Champagne house Taittinger to invest in a joint venture with Hatch Mansfield to set up Domaine Evremond in bucolic Canterbury to craft the first Franco-English sparkling wine in England.
The Sussex Wine Region
In addition, Sussex in southeastern England as well has been gaining prominence as an exciting and flourishing area for wine production. The region's climate is influenced favourably by its proximity to the English Channel, which helps to moderate temperatures and create a long growing season.
A region like Sussex is characterized by an array of soil types, including clay, sandstone, chalk, and limestone. These diverse soils provide different drainage properties and impart unique characteristics to the wines. Sussex, encompassing the two counties of East and West Sussex, is the center of English sparkling wine.
The region comprises 1,000 hectares, with 52 wineries responsible for a quarter of all the wine produced in England. However, Sussex has a good reputation as well for the production of still wines, particularly white wines. Grape varieties such as Bacchus, Pinot Gris, and Ortega are well-suited to the region's climate and soils, producing aromatic and refreshing white wines. Red wines, predominantly made from Pinot Noir, exhibit delicate fruit flavours and earthy complexity.
In conclusion, English wine has come a long way in a relatively short time, positioning itself from a niche industry to a respected player in the wine world. With its singular characteristics and increasing recognition, English wine will continue to captivate wine enthusiasts and showcase the fruits of the final frontier of cool-climate winemaking. Time will tell if one day English wine will attain the prestige and quality of the most famous wines of Continental Europe.