Tuesday, 28 May 2013

English Red Wine: Glass Half Full?

Search for English wine in most mainstream retailers and - if you find any at all - it will be sparkling, white, and rose in abundance. It's just what we're known for - the press is always telling us about some English fizz that's won yet another award, or talking about how our terroir and climate is becoming more and more like that of Champagne (thanks, global warming.)

But what of reds? A lot of even stalwart English wine fans turn their noses up at the very thought: it's too cool to grow good reds, we don't do well-known red grape varieties well enough, or they've tried some plonk from their local 'vineyard' that's made them want to do a bit of a cry.

Well turn that frown upside down, English wine fan (or, indeed, English wine sceptic) because they DO exist! In fact, they're winning regular bronze and silver medals at the IWC and Decanter wine awards if you'd care to look, and we've had the opportunity of trying some of the winners recently...

Gusbourne Estates Pinot Noir, 2010, RRP £15.99

Gusbourne already make gold-medal Champagne-style sparkling wine, and they found a batch of Champagne pinot grape clones that seemed perfect for a Burgundian style red. They've been making it for a few years now, and the latest result from the 2010 vintage is seriously promising: so light it's almost a rose, with a delicate perfume and lots of strawberry and raspberry flavour. It's not so light that it lacks character, but the vines are still pretty young so I can't wait to see how this shapes up over the next five to ten years. Still, it's a red that is absolutely worth trying. Field and Fawcett sell a bottle of Gusbourne Pinot Noir for £15.50, or you can get a bottle from The Secret Cellar for £17.

Halfpenny Green Vineyards Rondo

Halfpenny's Rondo was in the news last year as it was produced at a record 15% abv, and it obviously worked: it's just scooped silver at the 2013 Decanter Awards. Obviously the alcohol level means this is a chunky, full-bodied wine that smacks you around the chops, but is greatly tamed by a plate full of stew, or a roast pigeon, or a honk of your stinkiest hard cheese.

It's had such a surge in popularity it's sold out on the official Halfpenny website, but you can pick up a bottle at £19.95 from Nickolls and Perks.

Bolney Estate Pinot Noir

Another Pinot that's won awards and trophies all over the shop, this is darker and fuller-bodied than the Gusbourne but has spent a little time in oak to give it toasty complexity. It's also got typical cherry pinot character, and shows cold-climate pinot noir has its place in the world, and indeed in England.

If you'd like to grab a bottle, head to Yorkshire Vintners where it's £16.74 per bottle.

Also worthy of note: Chapel Down's Pinot Noir won silver at the 2013 International Wine Challenge, and has been so hotly-sought since then it's sold out everywhere we've looked - not surprising, seeing as not only is it an award winner, it's average price is a Burgundy-beating £14.99.

Have you ever given an English red a go? Let us know in the comments, or on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

Image from UGod's photostream under the CCL.

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