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.

Research says red wine is good for your health – here’s why

Researchers from King’s College London say their new research shows red wine is good for your health. The findings suggest that red wine increases the number of different good bacteria in your gut, which improve general health.

The research team say that the benefits from red wine comes from the polyphenols present. These compounds are still present in cider, beer and white wine, but in much smaller quantities. They’re also found in many vegetables and fruit, which is why they’re so good for you.

Wine is good for your health, but how much should you drink?

Just one glass of red wine every two weeks is enough to make a positive difference to your gut health. The researchers say that it’s about limited quantities of the high levels of polyphenols.

Polyphenols are present in lots of plant foods. The micronutrients are full of antioxidants, which is why they offer health benefits. Current scientific thinking suggests that polyphenols can help improve digestive issues, help to manage weight, control diabetes and improve the prognosis for people suffering from cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative disease.

The polyphenols present in red wine include resveratrol, which comes from the skin of the grapes. They are thought to act as fuel for the useful bacteria and microbes that live in the bowel.

Gut bacteria is essential for good health

Human guts are crammed with trillions of micro-organisms and bacteria. It’s these so-called ‘friendly’ bacteria that work to keep us healthy. A growing raft of research shows that tiny alterations to the microbiota in our gut can make us much more susceptible to illnesses. The common problems associated with this include irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, heart disease and mental health.

If we eat poor diets, have sedentary lifestyles or even take certain types of medication, it’s possible that the fine balance of our gut health can be destroyed. And that’s what leads to illnesses.

The King’s College London study on the possible health benefits of red wine was published in medical journal Gastroenterology. It studied thousands of people and their eating and drinking habits from all around the world. Participants from the Netherlands, the US and the UK, are all twins. During the study they reported on their diet, what they eat, what they drink and what type of alcohol they regularly ingest.

Red wine drinkers show diversity in gut bacteria

Red wine drinkers from the study showed much more diverse gut bacteria than those who drink other alcoholic drinks, or none at all. And the more red wine you drink, the more the good bugs multiply. However, the researchers say that none of the people studied are heavy drinkers.

Just one glass a week or a fortnight, depending on your gut makeup, is enough to reap the microbe advantages of red wine. Needless to say, heavy drinking is not encouraged by the research team. They warn that drinking too much red wine will have a poor effect not only on gut bacteria, but the overall health of the person.

As this is what’s called an ‘observational’ study, it does not prove red wine is good for the gut. However, it can be surmised that if you want to drink something, red wine is probably better for you and your health than other alcoholic drinks.

Researcher Dr Le Roy says that she wants to do further study on people drinking red wine or red grape juice without alcohol. She tells BBC.com: “Gut bacteria is complex, and we need more research. But we know that the more diversity there is, the better it appears to be for our health.”

New survey says wine is the UK’s favourite drink

Wine has officially overtaken beer and spirits as the UK’s favourite alcoholic drinks, according to a new YouGov survey. More than 60% of adults say they prefer a glass of wine to any other alcoholic drink.

 

White wine topped the list, with joint first position going to pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc. Third is Malbec, with Shiraz in fourth, and the always popular prosecco coming in fifth.

 

Why wine is the nation’s favourite drink

 

Two thousand people were surveyed, and results show that 81% say they regularly enjoyed wine over the last 12 months. The wine-lovers just edged out those who prefer beer or spirits, which came in at 79%.

 

The last time wine was voted in as the nation’s favourite drink was in 2015, when a survey by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) showed people aged between 25 and 34 prefer wine to other alcoholic drinks.

 

It’s unsurprising to see that wine is the nation’s favourite tipple, when the UK is now one of the fastest growing wine regions in the world. Thanks to the weather warming up significantly, more than three million vines have been planted across Suffolk, Northampton, Essex and Norfolk in 2019 alone. This is twice the number of vines planted in the whole of 2018.

 

More people drink wine than beer or spirits

 

Two thousand people were surveyed, and results show that 81% say they regularly enjoyed wine over the last 12 months. The wine-lovers just edged out those who prefer beer or spirits, which came in at 79%.

 

The wine industry has been pushing a campaign against Government increases on duty for wine over the last few years. The industry wants Chancellor Sajid Javid to cut duty tax on wine, which has gone up by 39% over the last ten years. However, beer has gone up by 16%, and spirits by 27%, both considerably lower than wine.

 

According to industry experts in an article in The Morning Advertiser, wine duty tax accounts for more than half (£2.68) of the cost of a £5 wine. And according to the WSTA, more than two thirds of UK adults also believe that wine is taxed too highly, and that the Government should cut rates.

White wine comes out as top choice for UK consumers

 

The survey also shows that UK wine consumers are most likely to select a white wine, with 41% opting for a Pinot Grigio as their first choice. Each wine type is broken down by percentage of drinkers who choose it:

 

  1. 41% choose a crisp, fresh white wine, such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
  2. 38% prefer a full-bodied red wine, like a Shiraz or Malbec
  3. 34% love prosecco
  4. 24% opt for champagne as their favourite
  5. 23% like their red wine a little lighter, like a Pinot Noir
  6. 22% love a light blush rose, such as White Zinfandel
  7. 17% go for a rich, oaky white – a Chardonnay for example
  8. 16% stick to their roots with an English sparkling wine
  9. 16% love a dry rose, such as Pinot Grigio rose.

 

YouGov’s survey results show that old assumptions about wine being for the middle classes are no longer correct. The social grade C2DE (classified as the old ‘working class’) show that wine is as popular as beer, with 23% saying each is their favourite.

 

What is fortified wine, and should you try it?

If you’re a wine lover, you may stick to tried and tested favourites, or you might be willing to try pretty much anything. But have you tried fortified wine? And what exactly is it?

Fortified wine is differentiated from regular wine as it contains a distilled spirit. This can be brandy, whisky or others, and gives the wine a unique flavour. It’s also higher in alcohol and has more sugar than normal wine.

Why was fortified wine first made?

The idea behind fortified wine was originally to prevent it spoiling by upping its alcohol. Before modern refrigeration it was much more difficult to stop all kinds of produce from getting spoiled, including wine. It is fermented, which is a process that converts the grapes’ sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol.

During this process, the distilled spirit is added at different times. This boosts the amount of alcohol in the wine and alters the flavour. If the spirit is added to the wine before fermentation is complete, the end result is much sweeter. If the spirit is added after the process is finished, it will be a drier end product.

Both dry and sweet fortified wines are traditionally served before or after meals as aperitifs or digestifs. They’re thought to stimulate the appetite and help digestion, which is why they assumed these roles over the years. Other types are commonly used in cooking to add extra flavour to dishes.

Types of fortified wine

The most common types of fortified wine include Port, Sherry, Vermouth, Marsala and Madeira. You’ve probably heard of all of these, but do you know the difference between them?

  • Port wine originally came from Portugal, although it’s now made everywhere. Before the wine finishes the fermentation process, brandy is added, which gives a rich, sweet flavour.
  • Sherry comes in lots of different kinds, depending on the grapes used. Traditionally dry, it can also be sweetened and serves as a dessert wine.
  • Madeira originally hailed from the Madeira Islands in Portugal. It is oxidised and heated, with brandy added at different times during the fermentation process.
  • Marsala is fortified with spirits after fermentation, leading to its unique, dry flavour.
  • Vermouth is available in both sweet and dry versions and is a fortified white, flavoured with different herbs and spices. These include cinnamon and cloves but differ according to the brand. It’s the main ingredients of famous cocktails, including Martinis and Manhattans.
Fortified wine is higher in sugar and alcohol

Fortified wine has high levels of antioxidants, which are thought to protect against cell damage, and help fight some diseases. It is, however, higher in calories than normal wine. For example, Sherry contains almost twice as many calories as red wine, but as it’s served in smaller quantities than wine, this doesn’t necessarily cause a problem.

It also has higher levels of alcohol than normal wine, due to the addition of the distilled spirits. Fortified wines generally contain around 20% alcohol, while regular wine hovers between 10% and 15%.