Why isn’t English Sparkling Wine the main attraction for many UK restaurants?

When one thinks of English Sparkling Wine, there are often a few names out there that come to mind – Nyetimber, Ridgeview, perhaps Hattingley Valley or Camel Valley. These are now all household names but getting hold of their wines in the ‘on-trade’ is a rather difficult thing to do. This is not to say that, however, the winemaking regions of the U.K. aren’t growing in popularity, but (in my view) comparing the English Sparkling Wine scene against say that of Champagne, is like comparing an Aston Martin to a Ferrari. They both do the same thing, providing incredible experiences, yet have their subtle differences.

I feel there’s a lot to celebrate, given our home-grown talent at the moment. Yes, it’s true, there are some vineyards who have been making wine here in the UK for decades now, but there is a recent surge of interest in buying local and having a deeper understanding of where that product is made and what actually goes into it.

The UK restaurant scene (Covid notwithstanding) is booming at the moment. Plenty of new establishments are opening all the time, with an ever-growing focus on using what the earth can provide to us in any given year. Keeping things as local as we possibly can and being mindful of that aspirational concept – sustainability – is a priority. One could almost say that it has become very regional too – Cornwall, for example, is a mecca for seafood lovers and has some of the best fish and shellfish around.

English Sparkling Wine is increasingly popular in restaurants, but what about the still wines?

British cheeses are a staple for many restaurant lovers these days, and it is fantastic to see so many being supported up and down the country. However British Wine doesn’t seem to be having the same impact. Why is that? I guess one of the major issues is that many of these incredible vineyards simply don’t make enough wine to cover the demand. Among the UK’s consumers the most popular style of wine (arguably) is New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. It’s dry, zesty, full of ripe fruits and can be very good value for money, yet it seems that getting hold of a bottle of New Zealand white is actually easier than getting hold of an English-made Bacchus. I love the idea of being able to go to my local restaurant or pub, enjoying a glass of something made just down the road, and appreciating local produce cooked by the kitchen team that day. It may be a wistful idea to some, but one I feel that we should be taking more seriously. 

The amount of talent that we have here in the UK is enormous, and we simply must do everything that we can do to ensure these vineyards survive. That being said, perhaps the vineyards themselves can do more to get their wines into restaurants, pubs and bars up and down the UK. Maybe the vineyards themselves need to get their names out there in some of the top establishments in the country, and thus get people drinking more local wine.

I do believe we are about to enter a golden age of British Wine, where many of the country’s finest producers are the mainstay on wine lists up and down the country, and where people drink more sparkling from the UK than anywhere else.

Until next time,

Stay safe, drink local, and keep smiling
Thenaturalsommelier

@thenaturalsommelier
Thenaturalsommelier.com

Posted in Articles, Food & Drink.

4 Comments

  1. British people don’t yet know the value or quality of “English sparkling wine” compared to champagne. Don’t blame the restaurant, you can’t even find a shelf in a British supermarket labelled English Wine. I’ve written to Oz Clarke and Janis Robinson but no response!

    • Hi Brian,

      Thank you for your note,

      This is a valid point, and one I agree with. The point I was trying to get across is that we have some extremely good wine being made here in the UK, but it can often (as you rightly point out) to be difficult to get hold of. I want to change this, and get more British made wine into supermarkets, as well as local restaurants and pubs. The finger certainly wasn’t being pointed as such directly at restaurants.

      Hopefully we will be a movement towards people wanting to drink local, and support these incredible vineyards in their quest to make world class wine.

      Best,

      Charles

  2. Great article! The more people talking about, debating and sharing their experiences of British wines, the better. I am a huge advocate for our home-grown wines and the innovative, effervescent (mind the pun) ways in which it they are produced. I’ve started to venture into British still wines, starting with Bacchus, Regent and Pinot Noir, which I found have a definite English nuance and nose to them, (and made all the better for it). I always look out for British wines on a menu, and if there isn’t any, ask why…. usually it’s a case of a lack of demand, unfortunately. Won’t stop me asking though. Thank you for sharing your passion and insights! BB

    • Thanks for commenting BB. Great to hear of your ventures into English still wine – it’s a fascinating category for me and something I continue to appreciate. Glad that you’ve picked up on the English nuances and do keep asking for English wine when you are out and about. We’ll get there!

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