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English Wines


Thorald

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The concept of English wine was once as absurd as German bananas. But England's summers have been warmer and drier from year to year. The effects of climate change have been tangible in the British Isles for some time and oenophile Britons are trying to take advantage of those effects to make wine. The pioneers were practically treated as wine-drunk lunatics, but now the exotic industry is experiencing a veritable boom.

 

The quality of many of the English wines is remarkable. When the G-20 heads of state rushed to London in April to save the world economy, one of the wines they were served as No.10 Downing Street was a British bubbly - a 1998 Nyetimber Blanc de Blanc with a fine bead, produced in Sussex in southern England.

 

Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the grape varieties grown in France's Champagne region, are all doing surprisingly well in England's new climate. English wines are now achieving respectable results at blind taste tests like the International Wine Challenge, one of the world's biggest wine competitions. They captured 24 medals at this year's event, including a few gold medals. However France, with its 729 medals, is still the undisputed leader.

 

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The concept of English wine was once as absurd as German bananas. But England's summers have been warmer and drier from year to year. The effects of climate change have been tangible in the British Isles for some time and oenophile Britons are trying to take advantage of those effects to make wine. The pioneers were practically treated as wine-drunk lunatics, but now the exotic industry is experiencing a veritable boom.

 

If climate change goes on like this in a couple of decades we might have German bananas.

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Germany is a wine-producing country and produces wines in many styles: dry, semi-sweet and sweet white wines, rosé wines, red wines and sparkling wines (called Sekt).

 

Winegrowing was brought to Germany by the Roman conquerors between the 1st and 4th century, in the Western part of the country. It spread to the rest of the country along with the spread of Christianity under Charlemagne during the 9th century.

 

In the past, vineyards were controlled by the Catholic Church until Napoleon took control of Germany. Under his rule, Church vineyards were divided into small parcels and redistributed to local private vintners.

 

The major part of Germany is too cold for the production of quality winegrapes and white winegrapes such as Riesling and Müller-Thurgau are better suited for the climate.

 

Most vineyards are planted around rivers, where they are sheltered by mountains. These rivers have significant microclimate effects to moderate the temperature, and the soil is slate to absorb the sun's heat and retain it overnight. The great sites are often extremely steep so they catch the most sunlight. The slopes are also positioned facing the south or south-west to angle towards the sun.

 

Many of the best vineyards in Germany are steep vineyards overlooking rivers, where mechanisation is impossible and a lot of manual labour is needed to produce the wine.

 

vineyardinrhinelandpalatinate.jpg

 

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There are some very nice white wines in the Rhine - Mosel country. All slopes facing south are vineyards. There is an important wine tourists economy in the area meaning they sell all kinds of rubbish in romantic tourist traps.

 

When you take the trouble to prepare yourself, to talk to people who might know, then you will find a good price/quality product.

 

The French Alsace wines, with a very good reputation, are made in the same climate and landscape, just a few miles to the west.

 

A special thing is "Eiswein". Always very sweet, very expensive and sometimes, very good.

 

When you are in the neighborhood you should give those wines a try. Otherwise, don't bother.

 

More to the south there are red wines but I can't tell about these. Didn't try (yet).

 

 

 

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I remember a British sitcom 'Chef!' with Lenny Henry. On a contest in France, the Chef had to serve a meal with his local (=English) wine. Of course the wine he brought was finished the night before the contest and his (very pretty) wife had to come to the rescue. Hilarious.

 

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