Winemaking in Great Britain can be traced back to Roman times, when every important villa had a garden of vines. However, a succession of winemakers through the ages have struggled to make successful wines in such a marginal climate and commercial winemaking was almost non-existent until Hambledon was established in Hampshire’s South Downs in the early 1950’s.
Grape growing and winemaking in the UK has changed dramatically since then; England and Wales now have approximately 2500 hectares (6200 acres) of vines, around 700 vineyards (of which about 540 are commercial) and over 160 wineries producing world-class internationally award winning sparkling, white, rose and red wines.
The vineyards of Great Britain tend to be concentrated in the warmest southern counties of Kent and Sussex, yet even with a marked improvement in terms of viticultural and vinification techniques, grape ripening on our shores is still a risky business.
The hallmark high acidity of English wine lends itself to traditional method sparkling wine production and when combined with soil composition baring close resemblance to that found in the Champagne region it is no surprise that the surge in quality sparkling wines are making people sit up and take notice of what can be achieved in our home country.
PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) designations are European Union indicators of quality and authenticity in terms of regional origin or traditional production. The wines that qualify have met certain requirements for their technical analysis and have passed an organoleptic assessment (a formal tasting).
Wine producers in England and Wales are able to apply for PDO, PGI or Varietal Wine certification. Wines produced in the county of Sussex are able to apply for a separate Sussex designation, currently ‘Sussex Quality Wine’ pending final approval of the Sussex PDO scheme by the European Commission.
Wines of Great Britain (WineGB) is the new national organisation for grape growers and winemakers. Formed on 1st September 2017, from the merger of the United Kingdom Vineyards Association (UKVA) and English Wine Producers (EWP), this merger brings the resources, skills and expertise of both organisations combined to form a single and effective industry body dedicated to ensuring a sustainable future for UK wine production.