Why one should say cheers to an English Pinot

Why one should say cheers to an English Pinot… (Not to mention our other glorious grapes)

  • The UK’s homegrown wine industry is undergoing something of a revolution
  • Sales of English and Welsh wine have doubled in a year, worth around £55 million
  • There are now over 160 wineries working with more than 520 vineyards in the UK
  • Here, drinks expert Helen McGinn shares her top picks for English wine

There was a time not so long ago when only the bravest of wine lovers would reach for a bottle of English wine. For years they were few and far between, not to mention rather more miss than hit on the palate.

But the UK’s homegrown wine industry is undergoing something of a revolution. Sales of English and Welsh wine have doubled in the past year, and are estimated to be worth around £55 million, according to Wine GB.

There are now more than 160 wineries working with more than 520 vineyards. And last year’s whopping vintage produced 15.6million bottles — sparkling, white, red and rosé. 

The UK’s homegrown wine industry is undergoing something of a revolution, with sales of English and Welsh wine doubling in the past year (Pictured: Queen Elizabeth II in Tallinn, Estonia in 2006)

Even the French are moving in, with famous champagne names including Pommery and Taittinger buying vineyards in Hampshire and Kent.

Our increasingly balmy weather means we even have vineyards as far north as Sheffield. 

During a recent visit to the National Institute of Agricultural Botany, the Queen was heard to say she’d heard English wine is ‘very good’, even though she doesn’t drink wine herself (although she’s happy to raise a glass for a toast).

Here, Femail’s wine expert Helen McGinn shares an English wine list guaranteed to get your taste buds tingling and your guests talking for all the right reasons…



Nyetimber Classic Cuvee, £32.99, Majestic

One of the original English sparkling wine producers and still one of the best, Nyetimber make wine from their own vineyards across Sussex, Hampshire and Kent. 

This is their flagship wine, a non-vintage — or multi-vintage as they prefer to call it — blend of the three classic champagne grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) including some older ‘reserve’ wines to add weight and flavour. It’s an absolute delight.

Nyetimber Classic Cuvee, £32.99, (left) and Hush Heath Estate Balfour Rose 1503 Rosé, £16 (right)


Hush Heath Estate Balfour Rose 1503 Rosé, £16 (normally £19), Morrisons

From a family owned estate in Kent, the Balfour-Lynn’s Hush Heath manor house was built in 1503, hence the name. 

And if there’s one thing this producer does better than most it’s rosé. This is their cheaper one (the vintage version is £40), but is really good, full of red apple fruit flavours, topped off with a whiff of freshly popped toast.


Hattingley Classic Reserve Sparkling NV, £29, Tesco

This Hampshire-based winery has a heaving cabinet trophy thanks to multi-award winning winemaker Emma Rice. 

It is a modern classic made from a blend of champagne grapes, some of which are fermented in oak barrels to add greater flavour and texture. Rich and creamy, this tastes like baked apples with a toasted nutty topping. 

There’s just the right amount of lip-smacking freshness, but not so much it makes you pull faces.

Hattingley Classic Reserve Sparkling NV, £29, (left) and Albourne Estate Bacchus Frizzante, £14.95 (right)


Albourne Estate Bacchus Frizzante, £14.95, albourneestate.co.uk

Made by a small producer in Sussex, this is an English take on prosecco, but is on the dry side. 

Frizzante means lightly sparkling and the team at Albourne have created a tank-fermented white from the light, aromatic Bacchus grape. 

The result is light and frothy, and the lack of a cork to pop makes it the perfect addition to a fuss-free picnic. Delicious.



Adnams Bacchus 2018, £13.99, adnams.co.uk

The Bacchus grape is often touted as England’s answer to Sauvignon Blanc with its aromatic style and crisp citrus fruit flavours. This one’s made from grapes grown in Crouch Valley in Essex from organically grown fruit. Lovely and light, it’s just 11.5 per cent alcohol, making it perfect for lunchtime.

Adnams Bacchus 2018, £13.99, (left) and Exquisite Lyme Block English White, £9.99 (right)


Exquisite Lyme Block English White, £9.99, Aldi

With last year’s bumper harvest, Aldi’s wine buyer Mike James decided the time was right to add a crisp English white to the discounter’s shelves. 

Made for Aldi by Devon’s Lyme Bay winery, this is a blend of Bacchus, Pinot Blanc and Solaris (along with a few others) and the result is spot on. Like walking into an orchard in dappled sunlight.


On The QT Bin 18 Pinot Meunier, £15.99, waitrosecellar.com

This is a real find. Made by Kent winery Simpsons for Waitrose, this is what happens when you take one of the classic red champagne grapes and make a still white wine out of it. 

Thanks to the hot conditions for the 2018 vintage, this is super ripe in style with lots of bright tropical fruit flavours balanced with zippy freshness. They only made a few thousand bottles of this, so keep it quiet.

On The QT Bin 18 Pinot Meunier, £15.99, (left) and Ancre Hill Pinot Noir, £23 (right)



Ancre Hill Pinot Noir, £23, tanners-wines.co.uk

Pinot Noir is now the UK’s most widely planted variety and, luckily, it suits the UK’s naturally cool climate. Ancre Hill’s vineyards are just outside Monmouth in Wales, planted by owners Richard and Joy Morris back in 2006. Since the release of their first wines a few years later they’ve been quietly winning fans and medals with their ‘biodynamic’wines (super organic with added natural treatments in the vineyard).

This one’s light and fresh with smooth cherry fruit flavours and a touch of spice. Definitely worth tracking down.


Bolney Estate Dark Harvest, £11.49, Waitrose

This Sussex producer has been around a while — since the Seventies, in fact — and is now run by the founders’ daughter Sam Linter. She’s made a cracker here from a blend of Dornfelder and Rondo grapes and it’s quite unlike most English reds around at the moment. 

Instead, it’s relatively chunky with plenty of rich bramble fruit and an oaky kick. Definitely needs food to bring out its best side.

Bolney Estate Dark Harvest, £11.49, (left) and Gusbourne Pinot Noir 2016, £25 (right)


Gusbourne Pinot Noir 2016, £25, gusbourne.com

Another star producer from Kent, this is about as far from English wine’s hobby days as you’re likely to get. Everything about Gusbourne is sleek, from the smart winery to the stylish packaging. 

Like most UK wine producers their mainstay is sparkling wine, but they’re also making small but increasing amounts of still wine, including this silky strawberry-scented, cherry-flavoured Pinot Noir. Expensive? Yes, but a real treat.



English Lily Rosé 2018, £12, M&S

Made exclusively for M&S by one of the bigger English wine producers, Denbies in Surrey, this is a real cocktail of grapes including Rondo, Reichensteiner, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a dash of Dornfelder for good measure. 

It has a little more sweetness than your average Provence rosé, so feels fruity rather than pale and delicate. But it’s very gluggable and, just as important, great value for money.

English Lily Rosé 2018, £12, (right) and Chapel Down English Rosé 2018, £12.99 (left)


Renishaw Hall Walled Garden Rosé 2018, £12.50, englishwineproject.co.uk

Planted in 1972, until 1986 Renishaw Hall near Sheffield was the world’s most northerly vineyard. 

While you might not think Yorkshire would have the climate for wine growing, global warming over the past few decades has led to milder temperatures that make the area perfect for grapes, and the vineyard produces up to 10,000 bottles a year.

Made from a blend of grapes including Madeleine Angevine along with Seyval Blanc and the red Rondo grape, their salmon pink rosé will add a pop of colour to your wine rack. 

It has a vibrant flavour of strawberries, raspberries and apples, and is billed as a ‘real crowd pleaser’.


Chapel Down English Rosé 2018, £12.99, Waitrose

From the official supplier to 10 Downing Street, here’s another English rosé. Chapel Down is based in Tenterden in Kent and they make everything from wine to beer, cider to gin. 

This is their take on rosé and it gets its colour from the red Rondo and Regent grapes. The result is a real strawberry mash up with an almost creamy character on the palate. 

Bright and juicy, stick this in the ice bucket and it’ll make you feel summery whatever the weather.

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