2012 European wine festival season
U.K. has a long history of cultivating grapes
Readers in the United Kingdom may have read with slight envy Stripes’ past annual wine issues, heavy on German celebrations of the grape.
But England has steadily expanded its wine industry and now produces wines that are appealing in both style and price. The industry also is evolving to engage the public in hands-on endeavors and expand opportunities for tourism.
Wine has a long, if not spectacular, history on the British Isles. According to englishwineproducers.com, the cultivation of grapes was most likely introduced by the Romans. The Middle Ages through the first half of the past century saw scattered production, and a revival in wine-making took root about 60 years ago. By the mid-1960s, the expansion of vineyards in England and Wales was under way, and between 1976 and 1995, several sizeable ones were established.
The types of English wine sold in-country have changed markedly in the past couple of decades. Whereas Liebfraumilch and Germanic styles were hot sellers in the 1960s and 1970s, much drier tastes have since come into vogue. Award-winning rosés are now produced from the limited red grape harvest. Sparkling wines also have experienced major growth. Today, there are some 400 vineyards in England and Wales.
Here are some ways to learn about and enjoy English wines:
• Base your next weekend getaway in the vineyards. Secret Valley Vineyard in Somerset built six wigwam-style camping units last year that let you sleep near the grapes. These wooden structures accommodate up to five, and with heat, electricity and locking doors, they’re none too primitive. A picnic table and fire pit add to the coziness.Readers in the United Kingdom may have read with slight envy past annual Stripes’ wine issues, heavy on German celebrations of the grape.
Established in 2008 and with four acres of vines, it’s not a huge place, but it’s already producing reds, whites and rosés. Try them all following a vineyard tour. Learn more at secret-valley.co.uk.
• English wine weeks, set for June 2-10, are an annual effort of the Marketing Association of the English wine industry. The event is marked by open vineyards, tastings and festivals. Places to check out include The Sharpham Estate in South Devon, which also produces unpasteurized cheeses made from organically farmed cattle. Many other wine estates will participate. To find a vineyard near you, go to englishwineproducers.com/vineyardregional.htm and use the map to search by region.
• From June 30-July 1, Giffords Hall Vineyard, near Bury St. Edmunds, hosts The Suffolk Food and Drink Show. Exhibitors will talk about their wares, there will be live entertainment for all ages, and, of course, wine to try and buy. Adults pay 5.50 pounds (about $9) with advance tickets or 7 pounds at the door; children under 12 get in free.
• A quick drive southeast of Cambridge brings you to Chilford Hall, an exhibition, conference and banquet facility with vineyards offering tours.
The first vines were planted in 1972 and encompass about 18 acres. Nine varieties of grapes are grown there and harvested by hand; the wine-making process takes place on premises.
Discover how vine becomes wine on a tour organized Thursdays through Sundays and holidays through the end of October. Learn about vine management, picking and pruning, processing, fermentation, blending and bottling. A vineyard trail provides greater understanding of how the vines are grown. Afterward, visit the shop to learn how to be a savvy wine consumer and sample their award-winning wines.
Several tours are available, from a basic tour and tasting at 12.50 pounds per person to a tour for two including lunch and a bottle of wine for 69.95 pounds. Tours must be booked in advance at (+44 (0) 1223-895-600 or by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. Find more information at www.chilfordhall.co.uk.