n England growers’ annual challenge of bringing in an adequate quality grape harvest has been eased by the hot summers of 2003, 2005 and 2006 as well as a precocious 2007, although later years have proved less propitious until a promising 2013 was followed similarly in 2014 and 2015 with excellent September weather. For several decades the industry has struggled with modest varieties and crossings of mostly German origin. The problem, at least until the recent escalation of the impact of global warming, was finding adequate ‘quality’ grape varieties that will ripen sufficiently in a generally cool and damp northerly climate. Bacchus, a crossing of German origins (whose parents include Riesling, Silvaner and Müller-Thurgau) with somewhat Sauvignon-like qualities, has arguably emerged as the leading white variety. Others include Reicheinsteiner, Ortega and Seyval Blanc. The latter has proved to work particularly well here but has faced opposition from EU regulators due to being a hybrid.
Others have gone further, planting the high quality Champagne grapes of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir now being the most widely planted grape varieties in England. The key to their success has been planting and sourcing fruit from vineyards on the southern English downland chalk soils (the same strata as in Champagne). The results are some first-class sparkling wines. Building on the success of the best vintages of the 90s, it is quite probable that the hot summers of 03, 05, 06 and 13 will produce wines of a quality unprecedented in England. The quality leader for the past decade has been Nyetimber Vineyard but Ridgeview, another sparkling specialist, and others such as Hush Heath Estate (for the new Balfour Brut Rosé made by Owen Elias) offer serious quality too. For production of dry whites (but also including sparkling wines) Denbies, Chapel Down, Three Choirs and Stanlake Park head the established quality leader board.

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Astley Vineyards (Worcestershire)
Bolney Wine Estate (West Sussex)
Camel Valley (Cornwall)
Chapel Down (Kent)
Davenport (East Sussex)
Denbies (Surrey)
Gusbourne (Kent)
Nyetimber (West Sussex)
Ridgeview (East Sussex)
Sharpham (Devon)
Stanlake Park (Berkshire)
Three Choirs (Gloucestershire)
Wickham Vineyard (Hampshire)
Wiston Estate (West Sussex)
Yearlstone (Devon)


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