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The best ways to celebrate English and Welsh Wine Week

With the weekend heralding the start of this year’s English and Welsh Wine Week, we round up the best ways to immerse yourself in the UK’s buoyant wine scene.

Ridgeview winemaker Simon Roberts explains the the winemaking process to HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, president of Wines of Great Britain. Image: Julia Claxton

Organised by industry body Wines of Great Britain (WineGB), this year’s English and Welsh Wine week runs from 25 May to 2 June.

Shining the spotlight on English and Welsh vineyards, the event coincides with the late May bank holiday, encouraging retailers, restaurateurs, hoteliers, winery owners and bar staff to promote homegrown wine throughout the long weekend.

Last year, the UK wine industry had a record year, with a total of 15.6 million bottles produced in England and Wales. This trumped the previous record (6.3 million bottles in 2014) by 9.3 million bottles.

Part of the increase can also be attributed to the ambitious vine planting programme. There are now more than 500 commercial vineyards in Great Britain. The area under vine in England and Wales has increased by 160% in the past 10 years to reach 2,888 hectares, with a further two million vines due to be planted this year.

In order to promote English and Welsh wine and to boost oenotourism, a number of regional groups such as The Wine Garden of England (Kent), Surrey Hills Vineyards, Vineyards of Hampshire and Sussex Wineries have been established in order promote county collaboration.

Commenting on this year’s event, Julia Trustram Eve, marketing manager of WineGB, said: “English Wine Week has become a popular and well-established campaign within the trade – it’s great to see what an effective promotional tool it is for retailers and the on-trade to highlight English wines to their customers.

“Year-on-year, the campaign uptake and reach have grown consistently, through outlets but also media coverage and a massive increase in social media reach and engagement. It is creating a real buzz!

“What really resonates is that sales of English wine not only spike during the week but sustain a good level of growth long after the week is over. This really is a campaign that gets results and we are so delighted to be working with such a broad scope of retailers, wholesalers, on-trade and of course highly supportive wine producers.”

For our round-up of the best ways to celebrate English and Welsh Wine Week, click through. 

In-store tastings…

UK supermarket Waitrose, a keen proponent of English and Welsh wines, will be starting its summer campaign during English and Welsh Wine Week. At in-store wine bars, the retailer will be matching English wine with cheese as well as conducting tastings of their English and Welsh wines. Waitrose has its own English sparkler, Leckford Estate, which is made with assistance from Sussex winery Ridgeview.

Department store Fortnum & Mason will also be shining the spotlight on its English fizz including its own-label made by Cornwall’s Camel Valley, West Sussex’s Nyetimber and organic and biodynamic Hampshire Laverstoke Park.

Meanwhile, Yorkshire wine merchant House of Townend will be showcasing the entire range of Little Wold Vineyard at its shop on 25 May.

Booths is celebrating English Wine Week by holding dedicated tastings in selected stores, while Bon Coeur Fine Wines will be highlighting the likes of Hambledon, Bolney, Nyetimber and Lyme Bay. Specialist English wine merchants Hawkins Bros while be featuring a different producer on each day, including Black Chalk, Litmus, Greyfriars and Bluebell vineyard.

Bath’s Novel Wines are giving customers a 10% discount on English sparklers including Bolney, Furleigh, Raimes and Cottonworth.

For more in-store events at retailers in your area, take a look at WineGB’s dedicated English Wine Week events page or contact the retailer directly.

Try a brand new wine…

Chapel Down is one of several producers to release a fizz made via the Charmat method.

The last month has seen a multitude of new releases coming onto the market. Try Chapel Down’s new sparkler, the producer’s first to be made from Bacchus and produced using the Charmat method.

Head winemaker, Josh Donaghay-Spire, said: “Deciding to carbonate the wine and not to put it through traditional method was a considered choice as I wanted to retain the youthful aromatic components which Bacchus showcases so well. It’s not a wine to discuss and debate for hours or a wine to cellar for years to come, it’s an uncomplicated and very refreshing wine to open and enjoy this summer.”

Thanks to fruitful harvest in 2018, a number of still wines are being released onto the market too. Surrey’s Greyfriars is set to release a trio of 2018 wines – a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and rosé – on Saturday 1 June to celebrate English Wine Week. Meanwhile Simpsons in Kent has also extended its range of still wines with a Provençal-style rosé, a Pinot Noir, the UK’s first still Pinot Meunier and a second still Chardonnay.

Urban winery Blackbook in Battersea has recently launched a new wine that claims to be the first “London-grown, London-made wine since Roman times.”

The wine, which is called Tamesis, is named after the Roman name for the River Thames, and is a single vineyard still wine made from Bacchus grapes grown at Forty Hall Vineyard, in Enfield, north London.

“Forty Hall Vineyard is the only commercial-scale vineyard in London and is run as a social enterprise engaging a committed set of enthusiastic volunteers,” said Blackbook’s co-founder Sergio Verrillo.

“It is certified organic, avoiding the use of synthetic fungicides, herbicides or fertilisers to encourage sustainability, biodiversity and natural balance. I am a winemaker who likes to follow a traditional winemaking approach with low sulphur wines and indigenous ferments, seeking to preserve the varietal characters in its wines.”

For a sustainable packaging alternative, Cotswolds Wine has just launched a canned sparkling Bacchus made from grapes grown at The Royal Agricultural University vineyard.

Visit a winery…

Hattingley Valley winery team

The UK’s wineries are opening their doors for English and Welsh Wine Week. Among those hosting special events is Hattingley Valley with bookable VIP tours conducted by head winemaker Emma Rice and owner Simon Robinson on 30 May and 31 May respectively.

Cornwall’s Polgoon and Camel Valley, Kent’s Woodchurch, Surrey’s Albury, Worcestershire’s Astley and East Sussex’s Bluebell Vineyard are among those also conducting special tours. Hush Heath, which recently opened a brand new visitor centre, is holding an open weekend over the 26 and 27 May, while this year’s English Wine Week sees the launch of the West Dorset tasting trail.

Try a dining experience

Simpsons in the Strand. Image:

Restaurants around the country have devised special menus to pair with English and Welsh wines.

Oliver Gladwin, head chef at the popular Notting Hill-based restaurant, The Shed, will be hosting a ‘Pop-up resto’ at Nutbourne Vineyard preparing a special tasting menu using foraged ingredients accompanied by Nutbourne wines. Meanwhile, the Montagu Kitchen will be teaming up with Chapel Down, hosting a fizz and canapé event paring the likes of pork belly skewers with apple sauce, asparagus and peas braised barley and a gipsy tart with Chapel Down’s Three Graces 2015 and Kit’s Coty Blanc de Blancs 2014.

Simpson’s In The Strand, which was shortlisted by Wine List Confidential for London’s best English wine list, will be serving Ridgeview’s top wines by the glass. The restaurant lists a total of 21 English wines. The Sussex winery will also be featured at Mare Street Market, where the team will be pouring glasses of Bloomsbury, Fitzrovia rosé and its blanc de noirs on 25, 26 and 27 May accompanied by small dishes from the newly-opened BBQ.

Venues such as Ormer Mayfair, The Oystermen, The Purefoy Arms, Ockenden Manor and The Dog at Wingham are also showcasing homegrown wines next week.

For more dining events in your area, take a look at WineGB’s dedicated English Wine Week events page or contact the restaurant directly.

Stay in a hotel…

Llanerch vineyard hotel.

Hotels are also taking part in next week’s festivities. Elite Hotels, which operate sites including Luton Hoo, Ashdown Park, Tylney Hall and the Grand Hotel Eastbourne, are celebrating English Wine Week with special by-the-glass offers throughout the week.

Meanwhile, why not get closer to the action at Llanerch vineyard in south Wales, which recently opened a 26-bed hotel after securing a £2 million loan, aiming to simulate successful oenotourism models found in New Zealand and Australia.

The vineyard, which was bought by Ryan Davies in 2010, claims to be the first to have opened a dedicated hotel in the UK.

Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey will shortly be joining Llanerch in the wine tourism sector. The winery is set to open a 17-room carbon neutral vineyard hotel this summer.

Something a little different…

At The Investec Derby Festival, Hampshire’s Coates and Seely will be bringing its vintage Albion bus to serve up English sparkling at the races.

Surrey’s High Clandon is hosting an art and sculpture event on Wednesday 5 June, showcasing over 150 works displayed in the vineyard, wildflower meadow, the gardens and glass barn.

Denbies meanwhile is hosting both a wine and cheese walk and a vineyard chocolate trail on 26 May, while Hambledon Vineyard is hosting a live jazz orchestra in its vineyard on 1 June.

Other events taking place during English and Welsh Wine Week include Roberson Wine and Peter Richards MW’s Bacchus masterclass and The Great British Grape Off Wine Tasting with Wine School of Cheshire on 1 June, pairing English and Welsh wines with a four-course lunch overlooking Chester Racecourse.

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