London Lantern

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Another Noteworthy Harvest For England’s Vineyards

23/11/2004, By Julia Trustram Eve

Reader Rating: 2.9 from 755 votes

There’s been a quiet revolution going on in the vineyards of England in recent years. Mention English wine to people and many will recall that there has been quite a bit written about it in recent years. English wines have been taking better-known wines on and beating them.

2003 was hailed as an amazing vintage for English wines. It would be easy to suppose therefore that we could not produce anything decent without the intense and exceptional heat we enjoyed over last year’s glorious summer. Think again. 2004 may not be seen by many as a remarkable year for wine production, but as the vineyards of England complete their harvest this year the results are looking very positive indeed.

It is easy to forget that we enjoyed a lovely warm, dry spring. The rains started, predictably, midway through Wimbledon fortnight (when else?!). Although we will remember a fairly wet summer, there were also bursts of sunshine and dry weather, which helped along the vines. Largely as a result of last year’s exceptional summer, the vines, like many other soft fruits, started to crop heavily.

When this happens a practice known as ‘green harvesting’ takes place, whereby some of the expected fruit is picked out, allowing all remaining potential bunches to extract the best nutrition. As seems to be the norm in recent years, the UK enjoyed a lovely dry and warm early September, which for grapes is a crucial time, as this is when they ripen fully, ready for harvesting later in the month, or more usually early to mid October.

Happily for vineyards, it looks as though this will be top year for quantity, as well as quality. The anticipated yield could reach 3 million bottles, a significant jump from the close to average yield of 1.9 million bottles produced last year.

It does not just take exceptional weather in the UK to ensure good wine - England grows grapes that thrive in the cooler, temperate climate it generally enjoys, producing crisp aromatic dry whites, exceptional sparkling wines, fruity reds and delicious sweet, late harvest wines.

The first wines available from 2004 will be from Three Choirs Vineyards in Gloucestershire, who traditionally launch a new release white wine on the same day as Beaujolais. This year a red wine was also launched – a deliciously fruity light bodied red (both are available direct from Three Choirs or in outlets local to them. Other 2004 wines will be released from Spring onwards next year.

It has been a busy time for English wines lately. This year the English wine industry celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of their first commercial harvest. English sparkling wines in particular have been making the headlines this year - earlier this summer, three beat a Champagne in a blind tasting in Which? Magazine.

There has never been a better time to look for English wines as more supermarkets, off licences and mail order firms offer them for sale, along with an increasing number of restaurants - particularly those in vineyard regions. There is the added advantage that you can visit many vineyards and see how the wines are made, and taste before you buy.

A number of vineyards will be offering special events and deals in the run up to Christmas - and many of them sell direct from their own websites - it’s certainly worth having a tipple or two.

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