Praise for home-grown wines as English Wine Week begins

Chapel Down wines, English Wine Week

As English Wine Week and Welsh Wine Week 2015 get underway, I speak to the CEO of one of England’s leading wine producers, Frazer Thompson, from Chapel Down.

There has been a massive leap in sales of sparkling wines in just a year and English sparkling wine has been winning praise from all quarters.

Frazer Thompson, Chapel Down wines
Frazer Thompson

Says Frazer: “What we’re seeing at the moment is a big growth in sparkling wines and particularly prosecco. It is cheap, sweet and available everywhere and it feels like a bit of luxury.

“People get the habit of a sparkling wine – the theory is they trade to the next level up.

“English sparkling wine isn’t cheap. We are growing it on the most expensive land that you can get in England – the south east – and yields are half those of Champagne.“

“Our still wine is also very important. We don’t make consistently great red wine; but in good years we can make fabulous fresh pinot noir. What we are going to make is staggeringly good chardonnay and aromatic whites.

Chapel Down Kits Coty 2012 wine
Chapel Down Kit’s Coty 2012

Chapel Down Kit’s Coty Estate Chardonnay 2012 (RRP £13.99) has just won gold at The Sommelier Wine Awards. Says Frazer: “If you’d said 15 years ago that a still chardonnay from England was going to win a gold medal I’d have absolutely laughed in your face. You know how rotten 2012 was, yet even in that awful year we produced a gold medal winner and I find that mind blowing.”

Frazer continues: “The English national grape is Bacchus – a delicious aromatic white wine. It is very similar to sauvignon blanc Cloudy Bay. You won’t be disappointed.”

{I wasn’t. Chapel Down Bacchus 2014 is driven through with fresh lime, gooseberries and lashes of zest RRP £11.99}

Chapel Down Flint Dry 2014 wine
Chapel Down Flint Dry 2014

Says Frazer: “Chapel Down Flint Dry was served at William and Kate’s wedding, It’s a fresh easy drinking wine that will match any pinot grigio or light aromatic white which people love on warm days.”

{I tried this wine sitting outside in late May sunshine and really enjoyed it. The wine has a mineral knife-edge like an unoaked chardonnay, but has a lovely lifting grassy-greenery too RRP £9.99)

I asked Frazer how he would encourage people to pick an English sparkling wine from the wine shelves.

He said: “If you buy a bottle of English sparkling, you’re buying two things. A better product – and a story. It is truly world class; in a blind tasting it will stack up against all the greatest wines in the world.”

Chapel Down Blanc de Blancs 2009
Chapel Down Blanc de Blancs 2009, RRP £26.99, has won two golds this month

Says Frazer: “Everybody knows it’s as good as Champagne. It makes you feel good because when you buy it, you are supporting our economy with a product that is innovative, new, original.

“And every penny that the consumer spends isn’t going to a French Champagne house, it’s going back in the ground and employing people to do really cool things.”

  • Waitrose stocks over 100 English and Welsh wines, the widest range in a UK supermarket.  Some wines are on offer until June 2.
English The Limes Selection 2013 wine Waitrose
English The Limes Selection, 2013, Waitrose

I tried Waitrose English The Limes Selection, 2013 (Save 20%, from £9.99 to £7.99) which is punched with lime and lemon and a little bit of crunchy apples to taste.

If you don’t live near a Waitrose store, head to their website www.waitrosecellar.com

  • Elsewhere, M&S has extended its range with ten new home-grown wines, including its first Welsh wine, Tintern Parva Bacchus 2013 (£13) from Parva Farm Vineyards in Monmouthshire.

To find out more about the English and Welsh wine weeks (May 23rd-May 31st, 2015) , go to www.englishwineproducers.co.uk

Published in the saturday extra magazine May 23, 2015

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express