Explore England With These 14 Wines

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The British have been experimenting with wine making for hundreds of years. According to British Tours, the country began its foray into wine during the Roman invasion some 1,800 years ago, but the climate prevented grapes from flourishing. Monks brought winemaking to the forefront in the late 1000s, when William the Conqueror converted the region to Christianity. Scientists dabbled in grape growing and winemaking from the time of the Renaissance, but the process still proved difficult.

Brits developed a potent desire for French wines after Eleanor d'Acqutaine, a young Bordelaise princess, married the future Henry II, King of England, in 1152, bringing the best vineyards in Bordeaux as a part of her dowry (via British Tours). England imported massive quantities of French wines, including bottles from the Champagne region. Champagne wines, originally still red and white wines, were problematic because the cold climate of Champagne didn't allow for a complete fermentation, trapping sugar in the casks and bottles used for storage of Champagne and transport. Each year, the arrival of warm spring days would cause a spontaneous secondary fermentation to combust resulting in carbon dioxide bubbles with enough pressure to explode the bottles of wine (via "About Wine"). French winemakers, like Dom Pérignon, fought hard to eliminate the problem of bubbly wine. But a British scientist, Christopher Merret, discovered the reason for this secondary fermentation in 1662 — it came down to the sugar in the juice ( via "Christie's World Encyclopedia of Champagne & Sparkling Wines"). We owe champagne to a Brit!

Aside from Champagne, Brits have quite a wine repertoire all their own. This list will guide you through some of the bottles that make England a unique wine-making region.

British bubbly is booming

Modern British wine production was born in the 1960s, when adventurous estate owners planted vines hoping to capitalize on wine's growing popularity, per British Tours. The blustery cold and humid climate proved detrimental to classic wine grapes, forcing the Brits to use hardy and hybrid varieties that could stand up to the cold — like riesling, Müller-Thurgau, and seyval blanc — but often resulted in strange flavors, reports "Wines of the World." British producers were focused on creating world-class still wines, but their efforts were thwarted when vines floundered. 

In the 1990s and 2000s, winemakers shifted focus to sparkling wines because the grapes used to produce them didn't need to achieve full ripeness to result in a great bottle. Plus, they discovered that some British wine regions share the same chalky limestone soils that give Champagne its edge. Miles of land are under vine in Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire, Wales, and Cornwall (via British Tours). 

In 2009, British wine shifted from novelty to grand champion, marking a pivotal moment in the country's production. The Neytimber Classic Cuvée 2003 vintage, crafted from chardonnay, pinot noir, and meunier, was lauded as the best sparkling wine in the world. Tasted blind (without revealing the producer), Neytimber Classic Cuvée 2003 beat out the best sparkling wines across the globe (via "Christie's World Encyclopedia of Champagne & Sparkling Wines"). Now, the champagne trio makes up 70% of all vine plantings (via WSET). 

Ridgeview Wine Estate blanc de noirs

Ridgeview Wine Estate is an English sparkling wine pioneer. Owned and operated by the Roberts family, the brand has been focused on sparkling wine from the start. Daring to plant the Champagne trifecta of chardonnay, pinot noir, and meunier when others were still dabbling in hybrids, Ridgeview sparkling wines received early and frequent acclaim ("via Christie's World Encyclopedia of Champagne & Sparkling Wines").

Ridgeview Wine Estates blends its prized grapes to produce six styles of sparkling wine: Bloomsbury, Cavendish, Fitzrovia Rosé, Rosé de Noirs, and a single varietal Blanc de Blancs crafted from chardonnay grapes. It is Ridgeview Wine Estates Blanc de Noirs that shines, with its earthy blend of pinot noir red grapes and meunier. The wine has ripe red fruit and herbal notes along with a lush shortbread and cream quality. Ridgeview Wine Estates Blanc de Blancs is an elegant wine and pairs perfectly with fresh oysters on the half shell and sweet cream butter on a toasty baguette.

Gusbourne sparkling rosé

Gusbourne Estate planted 60 hectares of vines in Appledore, Kent, and 30 hectares of vines in West Sussex in 2004. The winery sources its grapes from the very best Burgundian clones, planting ample quantities of chardonnay, pinot noir, and some meunier to round out its blends. The 2006 vintage was released in 2010 after spending some time resting on its lees, making for a creamy and crisp sparkler with fine mousse. These days, Gusbourne Estate offers still wines alongside its award-winning sparkling wines. Some vintages are so good that the brand crafts limited releases of oak barrel-aged and late-disgorged sparklers (via "Christie's World Encyclopedia of Champagne & Sparkling Wines").

Gusbourne Estate produces a range of sparkling wines including an exciting Gusbourne Estate Rosé that exhibits juicy strawberry, watermelon, raspberry, Amaretti cookie, and peach notes with a lingering finish of scones and roasted hazelnuts. Pair Gusbourne Estate sparkling rosé with a cheese and charcuterie platter, spiced baked apples with vanilla bean ice cream, and salt and vinegar kettle potato chips.

Chapel Down Brut NV

Situated on the chalky limestone hills of the North Downs in Kent, Chapel Down shares similar terroir to the best vineyards in Champagne. The brand partners with grape growers in the surrounding areas of Kent (along with Sussex and Essex) to acquire the best fruit for its wide range of wines. As with most British wine producers, Chapel Down vinifies sparkling wines, but they also produce still red, rosé, and white wines including bottles using the French pinot blanc and England's first albariño — a Spanish wine grape. If that isn't enough, Chapel Down also distills award-winning gin and vodka.

With a lovely range of bubbly, the Chapel Down Brut NV (non-vintage) is a crisp, clean wine with the prominent acidity that sparkling wines are known for. A classic blend of chardonnay, pinot noir, and meunier, the wine shows fragrant notes of crisp apple, lemon zest, and apricot with hints of spice and almonds. Chapel Down Brut NV pairs perfectly with crispy fried chicken, British fish and chips, and farmer's market salads.

Simpsons Wine Estate rosé

New to the British wine scene, Simpsons Wine Estates, which opened in 2014, is nestled in the Elham Valley, in the North Downs of Kent. With just 30 hectares under vine, the chalky soils and protective forests allow Simpsons to ripen lush fruit that's perfect for sparkling and still wines. The winery crafts lively sparkling wines, but it is its single varietal chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier releases that set them apart. The still wines are crisp, clean, and fruit-driven wines, with characteristics that show the essence of each varietal. 

In a beautiful expression of pinot noir, Simpsons Wine Estate Railway Hill Rosé showcases the best the grape has to offer in a cooler climate. Delicate notes of pink flowers, cherry, and strawberry position themselves against a crisp acidity and pronounced minerality that rosé aficionados crave. Pair this wine with steamed and buttered shellfish, goat cheese and minced herb omelets, and delicate creamy pasta dishes.

Roebuck Estates Blanc de Noirs

Located in a southerly point of Sussex, Roebuck Estates is 100% devoted to crafting British fizzy wines from the classic champagne trio of chardonnay, pinot noir, and meunier. Vines were first planted in the open plain that stretches across the countryside in 2006, but a second parcel (called Roman Villa vineyards) was planted with Burgundian chardonnay and pinot noir clones in 2007. South facing with sandy and limestone soils, the grapes from these two plots develop ripe aromatics and fragrant floral and stone fruit notes. In 2014 and 2017, Roebuck Estates added three additional yet diverse vineyards to their property.

Roebuck Estates makes a concise range of sparklers including a Classic Cuvée brut blend, a pinot noir driven Rosé de Noirs, and a singular 100% pinot noir Roebuck Estates Blanc de Noirs, each from estate-grown pinot noir and chardonnay. The Blanc de Noirs shows luscious notes of baked Honeycrisp apple, black plums, fleshy peach, and touches of rose petals, freesia, and Madeleine cookies with a dusting of spice on the finish. The Blanc de Noirs can stand up to roast duck, prosciutto, aged sheep cheeses, and filet mignon.

Denbies Wine Estate Flint Valley

The Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia reports that Denbies Wine Estate is Britain's largest vineyard with 265 hectares under vine. The massive estate produces a range of still wines including noteworthy rosé and white wines. Located on the picturesque rolling hills of Surrey, Denbies Wine Estate is a front-runner for English enotourism. Denbies boasts its own hotel, restaurants, and events center and plays host to activities ranging from private and corporate meetings to romantic weddings.

The winery produces white, rosé, orange, and sparkling wines, blending cold-hardy varietals and hybrid grapes from across its vast estate. Look for Denbies Wine Estate still white wines to quench your thirst. Denbies Wine Estate Flint Valley white wine is a tangy sipper with notes of puckery lime, crunchy green apple, and ripe apricot. Flint Valley white wine works well when paired with roasted chicken, creamy pasta, crab, and steamed bivalves.

Hoffmann & Rathbone blanc de blancs

Located in West Sussex, Hoffman & Rathbone is a small wine estate that produces bold wines to much acclaim. Hoffmann & Rathbone focuses on the Champagne trifecta of chardonnay, pinot noir, and meunier to craft its sparkling wines. They produce a small quantity of still pinot noir and lively white wine from the bacchus grape. However, it's best known for its sparkling wines (via "Christie's World Encyclopedia of Champagne & Sparkling Wines").

Hoffmann & Rathbone creates a crisp and creamy brut cuvée, a fragrant and floral rosé réserve, and a fruit-driven blanc de blancs with notes of yeasty bread, toasted hazelnut, crunchy green pear, tangerine, honeysuckle, and vanilla bean. The shining jewel in their collection is the blanc de blancs, vinified from 100% chardonnay and aged on its lees to give the wine delicate floral flavors tempered with notes of warm brioche, lemon curd, and jasmine blossoms. Pair the Hoffmann & Rathbone Blanc de Blancs with youthful cheeses, fresh tree fruit, berries, and scones. It is a beautiful brunch wine, accompanying toasty waffles, eggs benedict, and crêpes with peach coulis.

Woodchester Valley Atcombe pinot noir

Woodchester Valley was founded in 2007 in Cotswold (near Wales) with just one acre of vines and a dream. Slowly, more acreage went under vine and by 2016, Woodchester Valley opened its winery. The vineyards are rich in chalk and limestone, reaching across gentle slopes and creating an optimal environment for chardonnay and pinot noir grapes. There are also plantings of bacchus, meunier, pinot gris, pinot blanc, sauvignon blanc, and a handful of cold-hardy and hybrid grapes suited to the climate.

While Woodchester Valley winery produces exceptional sparkling wines, its Atcombe red wine — a blend of 60% pinot précoce and 40% regent — stands out for its fresh, fruit-driven flavors. It is a luscious drinker with blackberries, Morello cherries, and ripe red plums rounded out with notes of balsam, fresh pipe tobacco, cola, and baking spice on the finish. Atcombe red wine is perfect with wild game, truffled risotto, grilled root vegetables, and prime rib.

Stanlake Park Wine Estate dornfelder red

Dating back 800 years, the Stanlake Park Wine Estate, located in Berkshire, is situated on the former Earl of Salisbury's estate. Acquired by John Leighton in the 1970s, he first began planting vines in 1979 adjacent to the 16th-century manor that once belonged to the Queen of England's Windsor Castle Estate. Stanlake Park Wine Estate is known for its still and sparkling wines crafted primarily from cold-hardy varietals and hybrids including seyval blanc, reichensteiner, and dornfelder. The latter two are common in Germany and Austria (via "Christie's World Encyclopedia of Champagne & Sparkling Wines").

Stanlake Park Wine Estate Cricket Grove Dornfelder produces a tangy red wine with prominent acidity and elements of plum, bramble, blackberry, cherry, spice, and herbal tones similar to cold climate pinot noir. It is an easy-drinking red wine that is food friendly. Pair it with burgers, pizza, and pasta.

Lyme Bay Winery chardonnay

Lyme Bay Winery and its parent company, LBW Drinks, produce a broad spectrum of adult libations from grape and fruit wines, honey mead, liqueurs, hard fruit ciders, and classic British spirits including an aromatic, herbal gin. One of the most adventurous British adult drinks producers, Lyme Bay Winery experiments with ingredients like ginger, strawberry, cherry, sloe fruit, apricot, and elderberry. They also infuse brandy with caramel, mocha, and herbs. When it comes to classic wine, the brand crafts still and sparkling wines from chardonnay, pinot noir, bacchus, pinot précose, and dornfelder.

Lyme Bay Winery chardonnay is a balanced wine with fruity apple and pear notes coupled with peach tart, vanilla crème, and spice. Drink this chardonnay cold and pair it with clams, crab, lobster, chicken, and fresh market salads. It is delicious with buttery popcorn, cheesy nachos, and chicken and green chile street tacos.

Busi Jacobsohn Wine Estate Cuvée Brut

Family-owned and operated, Busi Jacobsohn Estate is nestled in the heart of High Weald, East Sussex. The estate opened its doors in 2015, bringing together a love of great food, wine, and family. Committed to enhancing the environment, Busi Jacobsohn aims for low-intervention grape growing and winemaking. The family is equally devoted to crafting world-class sparkling wines in the style of the top Champagne cuvées. Elegant and balanced, Busi Jacobsohn vinifies a blended brut cuvée, a rosé cuvée, a blanc de blancs, and a blanc de noirs.

Busi Jacobsohn Cuvée Brut is precisely 60% chardonnay, 25% pinot noir, and 10% meunier. The beautiful mousse releases delicate aromas of orange blossom, crisp green apple, Asian pear, and white peach alongside toasted almonds, warm brioche, and a dusting of baking spice. The racy acidity pairs beautifully with crunchy potato chips, a basket of fresh-cut french fries, and bold hard cheeses like pecorino romano and manchego. Drink this wine with sushi, curry, and spicy cuisine.

Davenport Vineyards Horsmonden Dry

Will Davenport settled in East Sussex, England in 1990 with the intention of producing wine. He planted red and white grapes on several parcels of land in the early 1990s. Davenport Vineyards is devoted to sustainable practices including growing organic grapes and vinifying low-sulfur wines. It uses a blend of pinot noir and another French grape called auxerrois, grown on the Limney vineyard, for its fizzy wines. Davenport also has a vineyard called Horsmonden planted specifically for producing still, quaffable wines (via "Christie's World Encyclopedia of Champagne & Sparkling Wines").

It is Davenport Horsmonden Dry white wine that's truly intriguing. A blend of grapes from cold-hearty ortega, bacchus, siegerrebe, huxelrebe, and faber varietals, this bright, tangy wine exudes aromas and flavors of green watermelon, rhubarb, crushed herbs, lime zest, and plenty of floral notes on the nose and palate. Perfect with seafood, pork tenderloin, risotto, and chicken, Horsmonden Dry is also ideal for a brunch setting.

Buzzards Valley Sly Fox

Founded in 2001 in Canwell Valley near Tamworth, Buzzards Valley is a 60-hectare vineyard that is part of a family-owned-and-operated flower, vegetable, and fruit farm (with a fishing guide operation) that dates back to 1962. These days, the family runs an artisanal market, a farmer's market, a flower nursery, and a winery that produces a range of still, sparkling, and non-alcoholic wines. It also distills spirits including a fragrant gin and caramel-colored whisky.

Buzzards Valley has 8,000 grapevines, ranging from German, Austrian, and French grape varietals and hybrids. Their focus on grapes like rondo — an inky red grape with aromatics of ripe blackberry, spice, and black cherry along with woodsy aromas and flavors — allows them to craft the layered, complex Sly Fox wine with vanilla cola, blackberry jam, and cypress notes. Sly Fox pairs perfectly with wood-fired pizza, grilled meats, stew, pot pie, and roasted vegetables.

Nyetimber sparkling wine

In 1988, Americans Stuart and Sandy Moss founded the 12-hectare Nyetimber vineyard with one goal in mind — creating the best sparkling wine in the world. It was a tall order coming from Americans in a barely emerging wine region known for producing plonk. The Mosses persevered and brought in consultants from Champagne to guide them. Immediately a darling amongst sparkling wine critics and consumers, the Mosses sold Nyetimber and the estate was in flux for more than a decade. Now helmed by Canadian winemaker Cherie Spriggs, Nyetimber continues to produce exceptional world-class wines that outshine top Champagne cuvées in worldwide wine competitions, (via "Christie's World Encyclopedia of Champagne & Sparkling Wines").

Look for Nyetimber Classic Cuvée, a brawny bubbly that's expertly blended from the Champagne trio of chardonnay, pinot noir, and meunier. The non-vintage wine adapts its blend each year to showcase the best grapes the estate can muster. Drink Nyetimber to toast good fortune and celebrate a sweet life. Nyetimber sparkling wines are perfect alone or with lobster, oysters, quiche, souffle, and sweet cream puffs or almond croissants.