The great British drought

article-2117605-1225E97A000005DC-168_634x373Before anyone panics I’m not talking about a water drought, or not one that I know about, but one of English and Welsh wine. Not a crisis for everyone but when your choice is limited, a lack of availability of English wine does become a bit of an issue.

When we started out our project there were at least 3 English still wines available in our local Waitrose as well as 3 sparkling ones. That gave me quite a choice and although they cost a bit more than I would normally pay they were well worth it. I would not qualify as a connoisseur by any stretch but I know what I like when I taste it and I really enjoy English wine.

So you can imagine my surprise when I went into a Waitrose near where I work in March to get a bottle of English white  for a dinner party and was told they were having supply problems, and weren’t expecting a delivery until OCTOBER! I thought that this was something that  would just pass and that as the demand for all things British increased there would surely be a resurrection in the wine chain into the supermarkets. We have tried ‘British’ wine before but I must admit it is not for me, as it is very sweet and quite watery all in one. NOTE: British wine and English wine are not the same thing. British wine is made from imported grape concentrate. 

So we find that the only way to remedy the drought is to visit the vineyards themselves. Not a problem as they are always lovely places to visit but not exactly making it easy to choose and enjoy English wine. We are planning a visit to Denbies at some point as we haven’t visited them yet and are told they offer a great visitor experience.

More than a good day out though I would really like to see the supermarket return a bit of choice to their consumers and offer up an English (or Welsh depending on where you are) wine to go along with the wine from almost everywhere else in the world. We make great wine here and it is time we were able to get our hands on the stuff to enjoy at home.

– Emily


  1. mike rutland says

    wroxeter vineyard near shrewsbury can trace its history back to roman times when grapes were grown on or near the site of the ancient roman town. fantastic wines from madeline angevine through to one of the most northern lattitude pinot noir grown grapes. they are also experimenting with olives too. well worth a trip, takes me an hour to get to from wales but worth it!

  2. Martin Arnold says

    Have you been to the Chapel down vineyard near Tenterden? Their Bacchus Reserve is amazing –

  3. Interesting about the difference between British and English wine, I never would have noticed that British wine is made from imported grape. Its easy to think you are buying something made in this country when that’s not the case. Thank you for highlighting this. Joel.

  4. Rosa Garrett says

    Off the A3 just past Guildford is a vineyard called Greyfriars. It is on the same site as Greyfriars for horses and dogs. Really lovely place.

    Here is an article comparing wines in Surrey Life:

  5. Jane Williams says

    Great English Wines is a good online option too, selling just English wine, there is a big selection to choose from

  6. You are correct that British wine is an abomination, and it is a major headache for English / Welsh wine producers that the term is legally permissible. Thank you for clarifying the point for readers who don’t know this.

    Denbies are a tourist attraction with a vineyard attached. Chapel Down (Tenterden) are much better, and Biddenden (nearby) are also very good. Stopham (near Pulborough) currently have a special offer on their tours. Otherwise, if you don’t want to visit the south east, then Three Choirs make excellent wine on the other side of the country (Glos), and Camel Valley are in Cornwall.

    Waitrose are the only supermarket who have bothered to support English (& Welsh) winemakers since before it became fashionable. So other retailers will run out first, because they have far more limited supply chains; when Waitrose are out, you know there’s an issue.

    Use or to buy online. Or try Waitrose’s online site. Or the Wine Society. Anyone who cares about the product rather than having jumped on the bandwagon at the last minute.

    Most of all, please understand that the producers and the supermarkets aren’t trying to restrict your access to the wine. The problem is just that there’s only so much produced, and anyone decent has now more or less sold out of their existing stock. 2011 wasn’t a big vintage, and 2012 was almost non-existent, so in a small market, reduced stocks are rapidly a noticeable problem.

  7. EnglishCow says

    There is a lot of talk about English wine at the moment, We make amazing sparkling wine, and English Sparkling has beaten Champaigne in many blind tastings, We also make great dry whites, but not found a good red yet.
    This might be of interest
    Furleigh Estates do an amazing range of sparkling wine, really have to be tried to be believed.

    • We’re not hot enough for most reds. Your best bet is to keep trying Pinot noir from various producers, if that’s a grape you like. It’ll be lighter than Pinot from most other regions, but in a good year we can actually make Pinot that looks, smells, & tastes like real Pinot!

  8. There’s a fabulous vineyard on the Essex-Suffolk border if you’re ever up that way. I sampled their Bacchus 2011 and it was amazing!

  9. This is my local vineyard and I would highly recommend it, you can also order online. As has been pointed out the supply problem has been with the harvests of 2011 and most especially 2012. On the upside there are some very good reds of 2009 vintage about at the moment and fingers crossed this year will be good. There are approximately 400 vineyards and 100 wineries in England and Wales.

  10. Janet Munro says

    Have you tried Giffords Hall wine Hartest in Suffolk they have a website?

Leave a Reply

Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On PinterestVisit Us On YoutubeVisit Us On LinkedinCheck Our Feed