You’ve probably heard about the impressive growth of the British wine industry. Much has been made of it in recent years – and rightly so. There are now more than 500 vineyards in England and Wales and many of them are producing award-winning vintages. This includes several right here in the Forest of Dean, as well as neighbouring vineyards.
One of the reasons for the success of British wine is the cool climate, which helps the vines ripen over a longer period. This results in a more acidic and elegant wine. Buyer Freddie Bulmer of The Wine Society insists “blending is key to the success of English wines.”. When it comes down to it though, there are at least five factors to consider when producing wine. And all of these work in combination with one another. We have attempted to explain more in this blog post:
The temperature the grape grows at determines the type of wine it produces. It also means vineyards know which types of grape to plant in what locations. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, for instance, grow quickly and excel at an average temperature of 57 and 63°F. Plan on growing Zinfandel, on the other hand, and you’ll want to be in a warmer climate where the average temperature can reach 64-69°F.
The warmer the climate, the sweeter the wine and the more alcohol it will likely contain. A cooler climate (like the one we have here in England) leads to a more acidic, elegant white wine and a delicate mix of flavours.
Weather conditions such as how much rainfall there is, whether it’s very windy and how strong the sunlight is, can all affect a grape’s health. It’s generally believed that a climate that is steady i.e. doesn’t have storms, heavy rainfall and yo-yo-ing temperatures, produces the best wines.
Grapes grow in clay, sand, rocks, dirt and many combinations of these. Different soil produces different nutrients and water retention. Unlike plants and flowers, the less nutrient-rich the soil a grape has, the better the wine it produces.
That’s because in poor soil the vine will concentrate on survival, producing fewer grape clusters. Those grapes that it does produce, however, will be more concentrated and of better quality. As an example, clay soil produces bold wine while sandy soil results in a more ‘elegant’ tipple.
The higher a grapevine sits on the land, then the higher the altitude it will be exposed to. This in turn affects the temperature in the sense that it will be cooler at night. This helps the grape conserve its acidity, leading to a wine that lasts a long time.
Grapes that are grown on a mountain will be exposed to more – and concentrated – sunshine, meaning the colour will be stronger and so too with the tannins.
Wines are classed differently depending on where in the world the grape is grown and the drink produced. For instance, a Pinot Noir in America has a minimum of 75 per cent Pinot Noir grape, in Australia, the minimum is slightly higher at 85 per cent. In other words, different countries have different means of wine production, classification and regulation.
You can taste some excellent British wines for yourself by visiting The Wyndham in the Forest of Dean. Tel 01594 833 666.