English Wine Week runs until Saturday and this year vineyards won more golds than ever before. Neil Hudson finds out there’s still time to raise a glass to a English success story
English Wine Week is not so much a week as nine days and by the time you read this, it will already be into its third. But fear not, for there is still plenty of time to show your appreciation for an event, which, it’s fair to say, has mellowed and improved with age.
Julia Trustram Eve, marketing director for English Wine Producers, the publicity arm of the industry, said: “When it first began in 2000 hardly anyone knew about English wine it was more about trying to co-ordinate events in different parts of the country. We have over 500 vineyards in the UK and 140 wineries, so it was about letting people know. It’s only more recently that it’s changed to become more about the people selling the wine and supporting them.
“Waitrose support over 100 English wines, while M&S have just launched a new range of English wines and at the most recent international wine awards, English wines have won more gold medals than ever before. English wine has really taken off in the last 10 to 15 years.”
Yorkshire Heart Vineyard and Brewery, Nun Monkton, between Harrogate and York - www.yorkshireheart.com - is taking bookings for a guided tour of its 10-acre vineyard on Saturday May 30.
Tim Spakouskas, who runs the brewery, said they had about 80 people turn up last year and were expecting a good turnout this year.
Rydale Vineyards, the northernmost commercial vineyard in England, which is just above of York, recently won two medals in the International Wine Challenge for the first time.
It is just one of scores of British wines which received medals this year - a total of 72 have been recognised, compared with 38 in 2014. English wines won 14 gold medals compared to five last year, all of which were for sparkling.
Stuart Smith, who runs Ryedale Vineyards, won an award each for his sparkling and still white wines.
Mr Smith said: “People say it is a disadvantage to be north, but I don’t not see it that way,. You can grow grapes f you have a good site and warm, sunny conditions. We have good summers like everyone else.”
George Bowden, owner of Leventhorpe Vineyard near Leeds, West Yorkshire, agrees and says south facing, well drained slopes are the key to a good vineyard.
One event inspired by English Wine Week is being run by The Local Pantry, Harrogate Road, Otley - its Spring Supper Club on Thursday evening will offer a four course menu designed to showcase the best seasonal, local produce, complete with a visit from Ripon’s Peter Maclennan of Yorkshire Vintners.
Suzannah Hepworth, owner of the Local Pantry said: “As it is English Wine Week we’ve invited Peter to share with us some of the great English Wines on offer. If you haven’t yet tried an English wine - then you really don’t know what you are missing.”
Peter Maclennan, of Yorkshire Vintners agreed: “The wines chosen for the latest Supper Club represent great examples of modern wine making from England. Most English still wines are produced using Northern European grape varieties that we are not familiar with. Grapes such as Shoneburger, Muller Thurgau, Rondo and Dornfelder produce fantastic wine, which taste slightly different to wines we are used to drinking in the UK, but are hugely popular throughout Northern Europe.
“English wines have greatly improved in recent years, helped by modern technology, which has allowed wine making to take place in controlled and hygienic ‘state of the art’ environments, resulting in consistently well-made products. So why not give home grown a try?”
The supper evening costs £29.50 per head. Telephone 0113 203 7361, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For a events see: englishwineproducers.co.uk