Skip to content

5 Must-Try English Wines

I’ve been an English wine nut since I was in shorts. I studied History and Geography at Uni and the title for my dissertation in 1993 was

… wait for it ….

‘The future of English wine and it’s potential with global warming’

and here we are … 
Full on global warming, vineyards springing up everywhere, foreign money
pouring into our fledgling industry and awards being dished out to some very,
very good wines.  Yes, awards; proper
awards; like the ones real wines get from real wine places, like Champagne and
Burgundy.

English wine has Strengths

We are very good at making bottle fermented, Champagne
method
sparkling wine from the traditional Champagne grape varietals –
Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. 
The two key drivers here are climate and soil. We have acres of well
drained, vine friendly, deep chalk soils in Southern England, very similar to
Champagne and our climate, as we all know, is getting warmer all the time.  On a recent walk around Hundred Hills winery in Stonor Valley,
owner and founder, Stephen Duckett told me about temperature studies of his
estate that showed a five year average exactly mirroring Champagne in the
1970’s … and it’s only going one way.

And Weaknesses ...

Much as we really do have some world class wines being made
in this country by super talented, dedicated, passionate individuals we are
still a fledgling industry, with very little structure in place to help us
consumers work out what’s good and what’s not. 
There’s nothing as sophisticated as the AOC system in France to let us
know that all Champagne is generally going to be good and taste more or less in
one style, or that Chablis is going to be made from Chardonnay and taste more
or less like we expect Chablis to taste. Although great progress is being made,
it’s a minefield, and sadly there are still some mines to step on.

I started life out as a winemaker, taking my first job after
Uni at Thames Valley Vineyards near Reading, Berkshire in 1993. Back then it was
all experimentation. English sparkling wine was just about palatable, and the
still wines were quite a long way off that; well certainly the ones that I was
helping make. English wine was synonymous with barrel fermented Seyval Blanc,
lees aged Reichensteiner, Madeleine Angevine. Grapes that can’t legally be used
to make wine in France were combined with traditional, grown-up wine making
techniques by us pioneers in the UK. Many wineries were trying to make a silk
purse out of a sow’s ear … added to which they wines were packaged and sent to
market in revolting looking bottles at prices that only the winemaker didn’t
wince at.

5 wines to Try

First are ‘wines to try’ that tell our story and are pushing the industry in new and exciting directions.

These are all still wines. We’re famed for our sparkling wines but not yet for our still. There’s no red recommended here. I think we’re 10 years or so away from being able to really recommend a red that’s not ludicrously priced for its quality. These below are not ludicrously priced and their quality is right up there. They’re really very very good and are only going to get better …

Wines to Buy

I’d recommend buying these. This is what we do best in this
country – world class Sparkling wine with its own identity and uniqueness. Each
one of these:

1. Is worth the money.

2. Is Different.

3. Shows what Britain can do.

Camel Valley Pinot Noir Rosé, Cornwall @ £36.00

Camel Valleys sparkling Rosé is a party in a glass. It’s so pretty in colour and refreshing in fruit.

Rathfinny Blanc de Noirs 2018, Sussex @ £40.50

Mark Driver and his family have put everything into creating the best sparkling the UK can produce.

Hambledon Classic Cuvée NV, Hampshire @ £33.00

This always come top five in any sparkling wine tasting I either attend or put on, regardless of the competition.

Talk about your brand

If you’ve read this far, I’d love you to go one step further and buy/try a bottle/glass or two of the above.

For the second step further please let me/us know what you make of the wines. You can reach us @ wine@tomgilbey.com

And for the third step further, please let us know any English/Welsh wine that you think should have been on this list above and I’ll make sure we taste it #alwayslearning

Blog posts

Aug 31, 2022

ENGLISH WINES – 5 TO TRY AND 5 TO BUY

Here we are … Full on global warming, vineyards springing up everywhere, foreign money pouring into our fledgling industry and awards being dished out to some very, very good wines. Yes, awards; proper awards; like the ones real wines get from real wine places, like Champagne and Burgundy. 

Aug 18, 2022

HOW TO BUY THE PERFECT ROSÉ – MY TOP 5

Rosé is all about sun and celebration so it’s really all about the week we’re having. It’s holiday wine, it’s ‘finished work’ and ‘heading for the weekend’ wine and it’s the ‘pick me up’ coz I’ve had a ‘day’ wine and the key is … it’s got to be easy and refreshing.
Close (esc)

Popup

Use this popup to embed a mailing list sign up form. Alternatively use it as a simple call to action with a link to a product or a page.

Age verification

By clicking enter you are verifying that you are old enough to consume alcohol.

Search

Added to cart