The vines were introduced to Britain in AD43 by the Romans during their conquer of the mystery British isle. During the years viticulture was in a perpendicular situation. After the Romans the land was occupied by Vikings and Normans in these times vineyards were unconsidered. King Alfred helped in the replanting of vineyards which was a staple of life in Christianity believes that vineyards were once again planted around monasteries. In the middle ages severe cold, wet weather was present which in consequence resulted in declining in vine plants once again, followed by the negative impact of the black death disease and World War I. The first vineyard planted for commercial purposes was planted in 1952 after the experimental vineyard in Castle Coch, a Welsh vineyard that planted and produced wines in 1875. In the mid-20th century, several research and studies on grape growing and wine making were carried out using Germanic varieties which were adaptable in view of vineyard climate and precipitation. An expansion of plantings over the isle was seen between the 1970s and 1990s with plantings of the Bubbly three grape varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier for the making of traditional method sparkling wines.
The evolving Great Britain wine industry
Wines of Great Britain have been making progress and development, with exceptional harvest producing quality premium wines. Brands have been introducing their wines in international competitions winning awards with growth and recognition and drawing attention to media, business, and further trades in the wine industry. Substantial increase in social media presence with followers from around the world. In the last two years sales have increased, Covid19 was a positive impact on wines of Great Britain mostly in international, and domestic markets, and local wine tourism. English sparkling wines have had an increased interest by a younger generation and convincing doubtful public. Despite, some people still haven’t tasted English or Welsh wines they are certain to be found on a wine lover's wish list.
Climate change in a glass
The vines of Great Britain are found in Scotland, Northern Ireland, England, and Wales. The majority of these vineyards are in South East England (Kent, Sussex, Surrey, and Hampshire) counting up to over 879 vineyards and 195 wineries. Climate change has played a great part here, the weather became more adaptable for vine growth which increased wine production. Located in the northern hemisphere with a growing degree day (GDD) which is equivalent to Champagne, France reaching Region 1a. The Growing season average temperature (GST) which is calculated between April and October is 14.1 degrees celsius, (57F) and an average annual rainfall of 648mm. Soils here are varied having a flinty loam as topsoil and bedrock of white solid chalk, in some areas parcels of green sand are present. Vine takes longer to establish its root system in this type of chalky soil. This chalky soil which also has a resemblance to the soils found in the Champagne region drains well with just enough water holding capacity. Site selection is key, having not more than 100mtrs above sea level as may result in low yields due to high elevation and frost damage. The number of days from flowering till harvesting in Great Britain is 100 days reaching acidity levels and sugar balance. These were the expected days as a rule in Champagne from flowering to harvest 30yrs ago, which now has dropped to 85/ 90 days due to climate change conditions. All these positive elements result in a perfect terroir for vine grape growing in Great Britain delivering exceptional finesse in a glass.
The expansion of grapevine planting
The English PGI has the largest Geographical area, with recently introducing the first PDO on the map, the Sussex region, it now owns its significant origins and county boundaries as a PDO. 66 grape varieties are planted in the UK having Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier making up to 71% of the total plantings followed by Bacchus, Seyval Blanc, Solaris, Reichensteiner, Rondo, Pinot Gris, and Muller-Thurgau. The style of wines produced is mostly sparkling wine in a traditional method having 80% produced as a white wine for aging with time in the bottle, resulting in a good example that matches a Champagne style and selling price. An increase in the production of still and sparkling Rose wines. Still wines are also produced with a few light reds being made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and some bold reds made from Rondo grape varieties. Organic/ biodynamic wines are wonderful wines and are surging in demand however, quite challenging due to wet weather, mildew, and fungi. These wines come with a list of environmental rules to follow, minimizing pesticides, protecting soils, and non- irrigation (dry farming) with a biodiversity approach aimed to protect insects, birds, animals, and human health.
Foreign interest and future investments
England downs have been getting interested from prestigious Champagne houses like Taittinger which are expected to make their first commercial English sparkling wines that are expected to be released in the coming years thanks to the diversity of the English climate. Wine tourism is fast growing with big sales opportunities as interest and demands are constantly growing. This can be a big future opportunity in the market for a luxury product combining the picturesque varied landscapes from the English coastline white hills of Dover, Jurassic coast, to the parcelled rolling hills and the beauty that the British Isle holds.