Long hot summer boosts UK’s wine production

While the continuous, and apparently never-ending, heatwave this summer is boosting both wine and cider production in England and Wales, there is a danger that no rain at all could damage next year’s crops.

Sales of UK cider and wine have been up as people enjoy the hot weather. It’s been touted as the hottest summer since the infamous drought year of 1976, and as yet there is no end to the run of sun predicted. As grape crops love the sun, we can expect to see higher quality wines in 2019 but crops still need rain to help them swell.

Conserving water

Cider producers are more concerned than vineyards at the lack of rain, as drought puts extra stress on trees causing heavy crops to drop early. It also means fruit with a higher concentration of sugar, which will produce a drink with more alcohol content.

Wine, however, is improved by a lack of rain. Daniel Meatizzia, who co-owns a vineyard in Wales, said: “If it doesn’t rain the entire summer, it is good for the vines. The hot weather is also very good for the vines. They absorb water in the winter, so they have enough throughout the summer.”

Crucially, hot weather also staves off many diseases that can attack vines in damp and lower temperatures.

Deep roots

As vines are rooted very deeply into the ground, they simply don’t need much rain. This is why regions such as Bordeaux and Burgundy, and countries including Italy, Spain, New Zealand and various states in the US have traditionally been able to produce much more wine than the UK.

So, while many people are starting to suffer from the intense summer heat, wine producers are more than happy with the forecast. The fruit is absorbing the sun and they are secure in the knowledge that next year’s crops will be impressive.

Concentrated flavour

Most vineyards in the UK have now finished flowering and are growing at an impressive rate. The grapes will have a more concentrated flavour but will be less juicy than last year’s crop. It would be helpful to have a smattering of rain over the next couple of months to ensure the grapes swell enough as well.

Either way, it seems that the UK is now firmly on the wine producing map thanks to increasingly hot temperatures year on year.

What are the best wines for an early summer barbecue?

At the time of writing, the UK is experiencing the hottest April temperatures for some years, and it’s reminded everyone to dust the barbecue off and get set for al fresco dining.

And just as important as the food is the wine. It’s often an integral part of the perfect barbecue, but we’re not just talking about serving up a random wine with your burger. It is possible to serve it correctly and with complementary food when you’re eating outside.

Classic wine pairings

Here are some classic BBQ/wine pairings, that will tantalise taste buds and improve the food – even if it’s a blackened sausage!

Ideal Wine - Summer barbecue

 

  • Steak – to enjoy your juicy, barbecued steak match it with a Zinfandel with its spicy, brambly flavour. Malbec or a Shiraz works well too.
  • Burgers – the perennial barbecue favourite is enhanced with Cotes du Rhone, Zinfandel again, Syrah or Touriga Nacional, which is a dark-skinned, rich Portuguese wine.
  • Chicken – a good old Chardonnay works best, ideally from a warm climate.
  • Sausages – Malbec, a Southern French wine or the Spanish favourite Tempranillo all work well.
  • Pork chops – choose a dry rose, a Riesling or a New World Pinot Noir to complement your pork. Obviously, a crisp cider also works well.
  • Salmon – a chilled Cava or Rose Champagne will hit the spot with this rich, oily fish. Or try a Pinot Gris, New World Riesling or the Beaujolais grape Gamay.
  • Halloumi – this sharp cheese works well on a barbecue, and even better when paired with a Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis, Prosecco, Semillion of Chenin Blanc.

All-round wines

We’ve named many choices here, and even for the poshest barbecue, we know it’s not practical to buy every single one. So, here is a list of excellent all-round wines that match a variety of foods, are easy to find in the supermarket and not too expensive. Choose from:

  • New World Pinot Noir
  • Vins de pays reds and whites
  • Dry Rose
  • Malbec
  • New world Riesling
  • Sparkling Methode Champenoise.

All of these are light and enjoyable when chilled but have enough punch to cut through the strong flavours of whatever you have on your barbecue.

To chill or not to chill?

If it’s hotter than 20°C outside, then chilling your red wines is the way to go. Red wines are always served best at room temperature, which is anywhere between 13 and 18°C. The cooler red wine will offset the hot meat beautifully, and it’s the very best way to enjoy al fresco dining. If possible, only serve in traditional glasses and avoid plastic cups, as this improves the flavour.

Enjoy!