Winemakers are producing delicious red wine from the UK

When it comes to selecting a nice full-bodied red wine, which country of origin do you go for? There are plenty of fine reds available from Italy, France, Germany and New Zealand, for example. But what about red wine from the UK? Not convinced? Read on…

It may not be where you expect to find a delicious red wine. It’s not even where you’d expect to find the location of the future UK wine industry, but a wine maker in Wolverhampton is turning expectations on their head.

 

How red wine from the UK is making a splash

A vineyard around nine miles south-west from the Midlands city of Wolverhampton is growing a grape from Switzerland. And it turns out that this hardy little grape is turning into delicious red wine.

The Halfpenny Green wine estate is technically in Staffordshire. They grow around 3,000 vines, all of which are producing a brand-new variety of grape for Britain. Winemakers are hoping that this grape will completely transform the burgeoning wine industry in the UK.

And the star of the show is the divico grape. Imported all the way from Switzerland, this grape is different from most grown in the UK. It isn’t used to make sparkling wine. More than 70% of the UK’s wine industry is devoted to making sparkling wine. But the divico grape is making full-bodied, rich reds.

 

Achieving the previously impossible

A good red wine from the UK was previously thought pretty much impossible to achieve. And for the estate’s founder, Martin Vickers, it was a calculated gamble based on nearly four decades of vineyard experience. He told the Guardian that they “put in a great deal of thought” before installing the country’s first divico vineyard.

Having first learned about the grape during a wine symposium in 2016, which was dedicated to wines from cool climates, he was impressed enough to bring it to the UK. The vines were planted in 2018 and the first bottles of the brand-new red should go on sale in 2022. A consortium of UK based wine producers is backing trials of the grape, including Nyetimber, Chapel Down, Bolney Wine Estate and Gusbourne.

At the moment, red wine makes up a tiny 5% of the UK’s total wine production. However, the industry is keen to develop the divico grape and believe that there is huge commercial potential in red wine from the UK.

 

Hardy Swiss grape ideal for cooler climate wines

The divico grape is ideal for UK growers as it comes into flower in early June. This is generally late enough in the season to completely avoid any frosts. Temperatures in June in the UK are higher than ever before, and this creates the perfect conditions for pollination. All of this improves both the quality and the yield of the grape. It is also very resistant to the kinds of problems that adversely affect vineyards in the UK, such as powdery mildew.

There have been trials of other grapes in the UK to make red wines. And while some pinot noirs have done fairly well in taste tests, there are rarely dark and rich enough for the consumer. If any producer can produce a consistently good, deep, rich red wine in the UK there will be a market.

It will take about 18 months to see whether the divico gamble has paid off, but early results are positive. Early taste tests from a vineyard in Kent last year have produced a silky red, reminiscent of a decent burgundy. The grape could be used to make a variety of red wines.

 

Red wine contributing to growth of UK wine industry

We are seeing an increasingly buoyant and successful UK wine industry. There are currently more than 500 vineyards and around 160 wineries across Great Britain. England and Wales export their wines to 40 different countries. The area of land under vine has shot up 160% since 2009, and now covers more than 7,000 acres.

This acreage is currently sustaining a record number of vines. This year saw 3 million vines planted, which is almost double 2018’s number. Predictions estimate that the UK could produce more than 40 million bottles of wine by 2040. And grapes like the divico could further open the market in the cooler north of the country.

 

After a bumper 2018, global wine production falls in 2019

For serious fine wine collectors, or those interested in the worldwide industry, the state of the world’s wine production is important information. Early figures from the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) show that global wine production dropped by 10% this year.

 

In 2018, the world’s production hit a record high of 294 million hectolitres (mhl). For 2019, the production has dipped and is now back at an average of 263 mhl. This is primarily due to three key European wine producers: Spain, Italy and France.

 

Biggest fall in global wine production in the EU

Italy and France are the two biggest wine producers in the European Union (EU). This year sees both countries record a 15% drop in production. Spain, which is the third biggest wine producing country, dropped production by 24%.

 

In 2019, all three of these countries have the lowest output for five years. The OIV says that Spain, Italy and France account for 80% of the entire output for the EU. They attribute this drop to weather conditions, specifically pointing to the “very cold and rainy spring followed by an extremely hot and dry summer.”

 

The EU itself accounts for 60% of the world’s production of wine. And the trading bloc’s collective output for the 2019 season has decreased by 26.7mhl to 156mhl. Portugal is the sole country showing an increase in wine production compared with 2018’s figures. Meanwhile, Austria, Romania, Hungary and Germany all show levels roughly in line with their average over five years.

 

Wine production outside of the EU

Away from the EU, wine production is up in countries like Georgia and Russia, according to the OIV. Figures for the US are not quite as clear. The United States produces about 12% of the entire wine industry in the northern hemisphere. Early estimates show a potential decrease in production of 1% on 2018, but this is likely to change over the next few months.

 

Across the southern hemisphere, the industry has also seen a slight decline in production. However, wine production in this part of the world is roughly “in line with the five-year average”. The two biggest producers of wine in South America are Chile and Argentina and they show declines of 7% and 10% respectively.

 

South Africa has boosted wine production by 3% to 9.7mhl. This increase is despite a long drought that affected wine harvests. However, it should be kept in mind that this figure is compared with an extremely poor output in 2018.

 

Australia registered a slight fall in production, which is estimated so far at a loss of 3% compared with 2018. New Zealand’s production comes in at 3.0mhl for 2019, which is a decrease. This is the fourth year in a row that this country’s production has dropped.

 

These wine production estimates from OIV are updated annually and use data from 28 countries that make up 85% of the global wine production. They are a useful gauge to measure how climate change is affecting traditionally strong wine growing countries. While these figures have been published, OIV says that they are early estimates only and are likely to change as we move towards the end of the year.

When is the best time to drink wine when it’s young or when it’s aged?

Fine wine collecting is an art. Some would say a science. And there is definitely some skill in knowing when to age a wine and when to enjoy it straight away.

Some wines age very well and should always be left in the cellar for a while. This is true even of some white wines. But others are more enjoyable if they’re consumed straight away. The best way to ensure you’re getting the best out of your vintage wines is to buy the good stuff early on. And when it’s ready to open, take your time and treat it carefully.

 

When is the best time to drink wine from your collection?

Whatever your taste in wine it can be tricky to know when to drink your stash. Wines do change as they age, and if you hang on to the bottles for too long, they can be ruined by the time you come to drink them.

This is a common occurrence with people who like to collect wine but aren’t quite sure how to do it well. Lots of people will automatically keep a wine in storage, assuming that aging it will mean a better flavour. But when they do eventually open it, they can be surprised. Conversely, they can also find a hidden gem.

It’s not always red wine that ages the best. Some sweet wines and white wines can also age well. This isn’t the case for all white wines of course. For example, white burgundy has a well-known issue of premature oxidation.

 

What is premature oxidation and how does it affect wines?

Also known as ‘premox’, premature oxidation was discovered when people realised that white wines were losing their fruity smells faster than anticipated. The fruity aroma in whites left to age too long transformed into heavier scents, such as honey. It was also discovered that the colour of the wine faded to brown.

It’s a form of accelerated aging that makes wines taste and smell worse. And it’s a problem when it happens to wines that are sometimes sold on the basis that they age well. In red wines, premox results in deep aromas, such as dried fruit and prune. While these smells are looked for in heavy wines like port, a young red shouldn’t age this way.

 

Drink whites and rosés young

In general, rosés and most crisp whites should not be aged. They should be enjoyed young. Having said that, Semillon and Riesling can age well. It’s sometimes down to personal taste. Whether you enjoy the complex flavours of aged whites is subjective. Modern tastes tend to run towards the fresh, fruity wines. Often, older vintages need specific food combinations to demonstrate their best flavours.

If you’re a wine collector with a taste for aged wines, then it’s a good plan to buy them while they’re young. Not only is this generally easier due to their availability, but it’s also cheaper. High quality wines are always cheaper when they first come onto the market. As they age, their prices rise.

Wines made in a good vintage year are the best investment. For example, 2016 was particularly good for Bordeaux and Rhone. Before you buy any more wine though, check your wine collection and find out exactly what you have.

 

Go by price – drink cheaper wines and store pricier vintages

A good rule of thumb is to go by price. Anything below £10 should be enjoyed pretty swiftly, while wines from £25 and above should be savoured. It’s simple enough to find out online how long a wine should be aged. Most fine wine merchants will include information about the drinking date.

If you’re not sure about the wines in your collection, the best way to enjoy them is to dive straight in. For any wines that have been hanging around for a while, it’s a good idea to have some back-ups ready, in case it’s corked or impaired. For any reds with a deposit build up, decant like you would a port, and be sure not to chill aged whites for too long.

When shopping for wine, buy from an established merchant like Ideal Wine Company. We have vintages, high-end varieties and plenty of information on wines to add to your collection.

Seven popular types of white wine ideal for any occasion

With cooler days and longer nights, is now the time to rethink your white wines? We think so. White wine is ideal for so many occasions, and it’s a more diverse category than many people think.

If you’re stuck for what to choose, these popular types of white wine may point you in the right direction.

 

What are the most popular types of white wine for 2019?

Whether you love a cabernet sauvignon, a specialist fine white wine, or something a little more laid back, there is something for everyone this autumn. A glass of cold white wine always goes down well and is something of a crowd-pleaser.

And as we look ahead to the party season, it could be time to stock up your wine cellar. There are so many fine wines available online that we would always recommend a good browse before making any decisions. In the meantime, here are some delicious whites to try this autumn.

 

1. From the French Loire: Domaine de la Pepiere Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine

This is a natural white wine. It’s farmed organically and made with no chemical additives. From the Loire Valley, it’s a deliciously balanced white wine. With a buttery yet briny finish the white wine has a sweet and yet slightly salty flavour. It goes brilliantly with seafood dishes and fresh oysters. A great choice for a dinner party as the nights draw in.

 

2. From South Africa: Mulderbosch 2017 Sauvignon Blanc

Fresh, vibrant and clean are the words most commonly used to describe this sauvignon blanc. It has a crisp grassiness, and a hint of green pepper. The finish mellows out through the mineral taste. Ideal for dishes that include asparagus, artichokes or soft cheeses.

 

3. From Sonoma Bay in the US: Outlot 2015 Chardonnay

Chardonnay whites are having a renaissance in 2019. This version is a juicy and intense chardonnay, which has a particularly delicious aroma. Expect notes of peaches, candy floss and apples. It goes beautifully with soft cheeses such as Brie.

 

4. From Austria: Grüner Veltliner Handwerk Reinhard Waldschutz

If you’re less familiar with Austrian white wines, this is a great wine to start with. It’s extremely versatile thanks to its flesh flavour. You will taste notes including lemongrass, white pepper and herbs. As it’s so refreshing, it’s ideal to go with salads, seafood and crispy potato dishes.

 

5. From Portugal: Gazela Vinho Verde

White wine from Portugal and Spain are becoming increasingly popular. The youngest variety on offer is vinho verde, and it’s definitely worth trying. Generally, on the cheaper end of the market, these wines don’t suffer from a lower price point. This version is perfectly light, very crisp and ever so slightly fizzy. Thanks to this combination, you’ll find it stimulates the palate and goes excellently with seafood.

 

 6. From Naples, Italy: Feudi Di San Gregorio Cuttizi Greco du Tufo

Made from a grape called ‘greco’, which is found in the volcanic terroir in the hillsides of Naples, this is a special white wine. It’s great for a celebration or other special occasion, thanks to its minerality, clean flavour and smoky texture. It deserves to be served with a fish dish, such as john dory or turbot.

 

7. From Sardinia, Italy: Poderi Parpinello Ala Blanca Vermentino di Sardinia DOC 2018

White wine lovers are usually more familiar with wines from Sicily. Sardinian versions are less well known. This white is made in the vineyards situated near Alghero in the northern area of Sardinia. Its distinctive flavour includes tropical fruit, lemon and spices, with a fresh and zingy finish.

So, don’t be afraid to try some new white wines this autumn. Just because the nights are drawing in, you don’t have to stick to reds. And as you can see from this list, there are plenty to sample. Look online for some extra special white wines ideal for any occasion.

Looking for the perfect wine holiday? Try a cruise

Wine lovers have it better than ever before, with so many ways to enjoy their favourite drink. From collecting fine wine from specialist sellers to heading out on wine-based holidays, there’s something for every oenophile.

And what could be better than a wine holiday on a cruise ship? There are all kinds of wine cruises, many of which include wine-pairing events on board and exclusive visits to local winemakers. Here’s why a cruise should be your next wine holiday.

 

Why a cruise could be the ideal wine holiday

Cruise liners are clamouring to provide the ideal wine-lovers holiday. Regular cruise goers expect high levels of entertainment, and for the cruise company to provide lots of entertainment choice. Over recent years, this has increasingly included wine-related activities both onshore and on board.

Many cruise lovers are well-travelled, and they also tend to be discerning. This is why cruise liners are now offering some of the best wines in the world in their restaurants and bars. On the right kind of cruise, you can expect to sample everything from world-famous wines to lesser known labels. For example, Cunard serves wine from the novel and growing wine region of Nashik, which is found on the northwest coast of India.

 

Rare vintages and specialist wines on board

Showing the commitment cruise liners now have to providing the best wine experience, Crystal Cruises sends its team of sommeliers to the Napa Valley to blend a unique premium wine. And every year, this special wine sells out.

Cruise liners can buy wine at duty-free cost, making mark-ups on board lower than in premium hotels and restaurants on land. This means cruise goers have the chance to sample high-end wines at lower prices. That doesn’t mean you can’t spend a fortune on a bottle while you’re abroad, but it does mean there are plenty to enjoy at around £20 per bottle.

And while you may not find a Chateau Lafleur 1990, there are high end fine wines available on many cruises. Holland America Line stocks the 2005 Chateau Petrus, Pomerol (France) at $2,300, Cunard the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti ‘Le Montrachet’ 2001 (France) for £4,302 ($5,295). The Crystal Serenity cruise ship boasts a wine list with the rare vintage from Domaine de la Romanee-Conti for around £16,250 ($20,000).

 

Cruise passengers look for luxury wines

And if you’re wondering whether people actually buy wines at this price while on board, the answer is yes. In 2018, Crystal Cruises sold a bottle of Chateau Mouton Rothschild and a magnum of Chateau Petrus. These sold for more than £1625.00 ($2,000) each.

Many cruise liners offer impressively stocked wine cellars. For example, Crystal Cruises’ passenger ships Serenity and Crystal Symphony each hold around 1,000 people. And to cater to the passengers, each shop carries approximately 300 bottles of dessert wine, 2,500 bottles of champagne, 8,000 bottles of white wine, 2,000 bottles of sparkling wine and 10,000 bottles of red wine.

Cunard’s ship, the Queen Mary 2, holds 2,700 passengers. And it sets sail with more than 45,000 bottles of wine. Storing an entire wine cellar on board has its own challenges. The wines are stowed securely in temperature-controlled rooms in the lower aft part of the liner. This moves less than other parts if the weather gets wild, and for extra protection the bottles are wrapped and stacked in v-shaped wine racks.

 

Wine-related activities and vineyard visits

But it’s not just about the wine served on board. There are a growing range of wine-related activities for passengers to enjoy. For example, the Koningsdam (run by Holland America Line) has its very own wine blending room. Here, passengers can make their own blend of wine under supervision from experts.

Cunard, on the other hand, has teamed up with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), to offer courses in wine education on board. Classes are run by trained educators and sommeliers. Passengers can complete the WSET Level 1 course in five days or the 12-day Level 2 course.

Many passengers look forward to the destinations as much as being on board. And plenty of cruises are stopping at vineyards along the way. In 2018, Holland America Line offered 23 specialist food and drink excursions for passengers. These include a trip to the Mazzorbo island in Venice, which is world renowned for its vineyards.

Oceana Cruises joins Holland America Line to offer trips to vineyards on the beautiful island of Santorini. This boasts a particularly interesting terroir thanks to the volcanic rock and seat mists. These are just a couple of examples of the vast array of wine-related cruises available.

If you fancy booking one next year, you could book on the Queen Mary 2 for a transatlantic trip to New York. The voyage will include a Festival of Food and Wine and costs from £1,649 per person. Head to cunard.co.uk for more information. Or you could go on the ten-day Wines & Artistry Cruise from Barcelona to London with the opportunity to try wines from France, Portugal and Spain.