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Majestic Guides: Discover England - the world's newest Old World region

Category: Majestic Guides

Discover England — the world's newest Old World region

In Short:
English wine has come along leaps and bounds in recent years, and can now stand up to the likes of Champagne and French rosé

English wine, you say? Since when?

While the past decade has seen an influx of English wine on our shelves, it’s not some new trend. The English have been making wine for centuries – since Roman times, in fact. Records show grapes were introduced as far back as 43 AD, when Emperor Claudius began his conquest of the British Isles. What’s changed in recent years – and grabbed oenophiles’ attentions – is a marked increase in both quality and quantity. A combination of excellent new vineyard sites, world-class winemaking and widespread availability has made critics and consumers alike take notice. English wines have snagged major awards and gained international kudos, and in turn, wine drinkers are finally taking them seriously.


The figures don’t lie

The British vineyard business is booming. There are now around 3,800 hectares under vine, 98% of it in England (Wales, Scotland and the Channel Islands make small quantities of wine, too). Over the past five years there’s been a 70% increase in planting, with more than eight million new vines recently put into soil. That can only mean one thing: there’s going to be a lot more English wine to come in the future.


What’s being grown? Mostly classic Champagne varietals – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, which make up nearly 65% of production. Though you will find many other varieties, some of them unusual, across the 150-plus wineries that are now producing in England.

Champagne-beating fizz

Champagne, from France, is often touted as being the world’s best fizz. But English sparkling wines share the same grape varieties, similar climatic conditions and even, in many cases, the same chalky soils. They are also usually made using the same laborious traditional method of sparkling winemaking, which includes a primary fermentation in tank and then a secondary one in bottle. So when it comes to quality, you might say they’re evenly matched. 

What Champagne houses have going for them most is a long, established history. In time, English producers hopefully will show they have the same staying power. As for flavour? Champagnes and English sparkling wines can be very similar, though the latter often comes with characteristic fresh apple notes and higher acidity.

Try these premium examples of English fizz. :

Nyetimber Classic Cuvée, Sussex

Definition English Sparkling Rosé, Hampshire

What about still wine?

While English sparkling wine has snagged most of the acclaim in recent years, the country’s still wines are starting to turn heads too. Many of these still wines are made with Bacchus, England’s signature fresh white grape that typically shows notes of citrus, apple and pear, hedgerow and elderflower. But more recognisable varieties are making their way into the country’s still wines too, including Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.

What’s more, English rosé is also beginning to impress. Made from grapes such as Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, it typically has plenty of wild strawberry notes and is perfect for sipping in the British summertime. Some wine critics even think this could be the next big thing in English wine – and, in time, a possible rival to French rosé – so watch this space.

Our experts have selected their favourites from our ever-growing Majestic English Wine range. And, don’t forget, you get the full experience by visiting these wineries for yourself.