Although not renowned for our wines or vineyards, in recent years, the British wine industry has recently gained notice internationally and a number of home brands are becoming popular in Europe and farther afield.  We enjoyed particular success at the International Wine Challenge last year.

The English wine-making tradition is still quite young but has already developed a wonderful and distinctive English style – delicate, subtle, zingy and aromatic. The reason the industry has gained momentum in recent years is not only thanks to this character and improvement in quality, but also to more people looking locally after the gradual weakening of the British pound over recent years.

Despite this recent renaissance in the art of British wine-making, English wine makers are still quite a way behind their continental competitors in France, Italy and Spain, as well as those in the New World, notably Australia, New Zealand and the West Coast of the U.S.

One of the reasons wine making has been on the rise is because, due to Britain’s limitations in space and land, farmers and corporations have been paying attention to growth efficiency in terms of both money and space.  Vines return a much larger yield per square metre than most traditional crops.  The main problem, however, is that growing grapes is highly dependent on the weather.  The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (of the United Kingdom) has even claimed that they expect a good grape harvest once in every five years – not great odds!

camel valley

by midgley on Flickr

My Favourite Vineyards

Despite the unpredictable weather, going on a drive around the country, visiting some of the wine-related landmarks, is one of the most enjoyable ways you can spend a summer’s day.  Here’s my favourite three vineyards, a starter in your Sideways-style wine tour of Britain.

Camel Valley in Cornwall produces some of the finest wines in the UK. Their 2008 Pinot Noir Rose Brut won the gold award at the International Wine Challenge in 2010 while the vineyard has been producing acclaimed wines since its inception in 1989. It stands out amongst the rest due to its location. It can be found in a quaint corner of Cornwall which has scenic slopes near the Camel River. The soil and climate combine perfectly to produce the grapes that are used in their award-winning wines while making the best of both traditional and modern vineyard techniques. You’ll find plenty to do while enjoying some of the finest wines in the world with the area great for fishing enthusiasts and those looking for a relaxing weekend break.

The Glyndwr Vineyard is the oldest vineyard in Wales and it has been delivering the highest quality product since its plantation in 1982. Located in the idyllic Vale of Glamorgan they have created a range of critically acclaimed wines specialising in fruity whites and oak-aged reds. The vineyard is known for its commitment to the environment and you can roam the gardens, woodland and orchards while tasting their award-winning product.

The Ryeland Vineyards in Yorkshire are situated in areas that are rich in wildlife and they work tirelessly to ensure that bird life is supported by their vineyard. They regularly have sightings of endangered birds such as the tree sparrow and barn owl. They are relatively new with their first vintage being produced in 2009. They have 10 acres, 3 of which are purely organic and have picked up a raft of accolades in a short space of time most notably their Yorkshire Sunset Rose. Fine wines in an environmentally sound and relaxing atmosphere means this vineyard is a must.

If you are ever at a loss for something to do on a warm summer’s day, book yourself a hotel or bed and breakfast in the countryside and get out and explore England’s vineyards…