30th May 2018 by Sam Johnson
In this post Sam celebrates the quality of English Wine and argues how #EnglishWineWeek should inspire the wine industry in this country to embrace the 21st Century and propel English Wine to the top table.
Happy #EnglishWineWeek: the dedicated week of the year where all eyes turn to England’s green and pleasant land and, more specifically, to its wines and winemakers. And with good reason! English wine really is something to celebrate and be held aloft as one of the most exciting emerging wine regions of the world.
Of course, it’s Sparkling Wine that has put England on the oenological map, thanks in large part to the likes of Nyetimber, Ridgeview, Gusbourne and Camel Valley, but the still wines are not to be overlooked either! With some great examples of Bacchus, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir coming out of the vineyards of the South East, we’ve got much to be proud about in this country and the potential to be truly great.
There are, however, some hurdles yet to overcome before English Wine can really claim its seat at the top table.
The most obvious of which is, of course, the issue of climate. In simple terms, we could do with being a tad warmer, and not for the sake of a couple more outings of the string vest and knotted hanky, but in order to achieve greater vintage consistency in our wines. Now, I don’t want to get into a discussion about climate and the science of viticulture, there are many who are much more qualified than I to address this. But, the climate will come! Temperatures are rising, viticulture is shifting northwards and we are well placed to be the beneficiaries of these facts, but only in time. So, hurdle number one: the weather. Not much we can do about it, so let’s put a pin in that for now.
The second obstacle I see down the road, however, is something that is within our power to change: image. Now, I am not saying that English Wine has an image problem, but moving forward it’s essential that we get this right. Within my experience of introducing customers to English Wine, I have found that it is certainly a hard sell, with much of the talk being about how ‘great it is to support our very own wine industry’ and how the quality is ‘actually really good’. This can’t be the case. The wine is good and deserves better than to be bought purely for patriotic purposes.
Although still a relatively young wine producing country, English Wine needs to stand on it’s own two feet, shaped by but not entirely defined by its ‘Englishness’ and certainly not by its relation to other regions ie. ‘It’s just as good as Champagne’. So where to go from here?
From what I can see the English Wine trade has a fantastic opportunity to excel. Take a look online and you’ll see that hardly anyone in this industry, home or abroad, promotes themselves effectively online. Take a look at other industries and you see a wealth of engaging content available to consumers: videos, blogs, podcasts, the lot. Herein lies the opportunity: to make English Wine the wine for the 21st Century consumer.
I don’t mean to make English Sparkling the stuff of hip and trendy Millennials, in the way craft beer has had so much success, but just to use the tools at our disposal to bring the wine to the people, generate some genuine interest, to inform, educate and entertain the drinking public with all things English Wine.
We have the product, the people, and the potential, to effectively communicate the amazing story of English Wine, forge a true identity as the most innovative region in the world, and lay the foundations of greatness for when the climate does us a favour a few years down the line. Leave ‘tradition’ to the Champenois, and let us embrace the future, let us embrace our modernity, and let us give English Wine the image and the global profile it deserves.
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