English wines ‘are now world class’

24th April, 2017 by Lucy Shaw

The best wines being made in England are now ‘world class’ and can stand shoulder to shoulder with the top Champagnes and Burgundies according to England’s largest wine producer.

Chapel Down’s Kit’s Coty single vineyard in Kent

Speaking to the drinks business during a preview tasting of England’s most expensive sparkling wine – the £99.99 Kit’s Coty Coeur de Cuvée 2013 – Chapel Down brand ambassador James McLean said:

“England has proved that it can now produce world class wines. The industry has reached a fantastic stage and we’re keen to raise the bar again. Can England’s top wines compete with the best in the world? Yes they can.”

McLean believes the 2014 vintage of the estate’s single vineyard Kit’s Coty Chardonnay “draws comparisons with wines from Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet”, and that if people tasted it blind, many would think it was a Burgundy.

Chapel Down’s brand ambassador James McLean believes Kit’s Coty Chardonnay 2014 could hold its own alongside top Puligny-Montrachets

“Because the grapes are grown on a south facing suntrap on the North Downs in Kent, you get fantastic ripeness and none of the cooling northern winds. The Kit’s Coty vineyard is actually one of the warmest vineyard sites in England and you can taste the ripeness on the palate of this wine.

“I honestly think it could stand shoulder to shoulder with the top Puligny-Montrachets, and, at £29.99 it’s a bargain compared to top white Burgundy,” McLean said.

The wine is fermented with wild yeast, undergoes full malolactic fermentation and spends nine months in third use French oak. Just 8,000 bottles were made.

With 223 acres either under its ownership or management, Chapel Down is currently the largest wine producer in the UK. The company recently planted 40 acres on its new leased vineyard sites in Kent and acquired 55 acres from contract partners.

“Our vineyard sites stretch from Essex to Hampshire – we’re not struggling to find land to buy. A lot of people are coming to us and offering up their land for lease,” McLean told db, revealing that a lot of apple orchards in Kent are being turned into vineyards.

McLean believes Taittinger’s investment in land in Kent with the view to making high-end English sparkling is “just the beginning” and that we’ll see similar foreign investments in the near future, with Pommery having already followed Taittinger’s lead.

“English wine is gaining respect both within the wine industry and internationally and the Taittinger investment was great as it shed light on the industry and brought attention to our wines,” McLean told db.

He believes that the signature thread running through English sparkling wines is “tart apple acidity” and “freshness and fruit purity”.

Chapel Down currently produces one million bottles of still and sparkling wine a year and is due to grow its production to 1.4 million bottles next year.

The company recently celebrated a 25% rise in year-on-year sales, which rose to £10.2 million last year. Wine sales were up 22% to £6.8 million, while beer and cider sales rose 32% to £3.4 million.

Having expanded into the US last year, the company is selling twice the amount of wine in America that it anticipated.

“Demand for English wines is continuing to rise and we’re developing a strong brand to ensure we maximise the potential that’s being created through the consumer and trade excitement around cool climate wines,” said CEO Frazer Thompson.

“Our investment in British events like the boat race and Royal Ascot is helping to bring our brand to a broader international consumer. They are perfect compliments for our brand: exciting, English and aspirational,” he added.

“The fact that an English wine brand took over the sponsorship of the boat race from a Champagne brand is a sign of the times – it makes sense for us to sponsor it as it’s an English event,” McLean told db, adding, “We don’t do it to make money, we do it for brand exposure.”

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