The English are Coming (And it's not all Sparkling either)

Halfpenny Green - Volunteers harvest picking

Over the last 12 months there has been lots of Press about English wines. The East Mercia Vineyards Association stretches from the Welsh Border to Lincolnshire and south of Northampton to well north or York, with most being placed in the centre middle of the region. Few are fully commercial, with most being ‘hobby vineyards’. Some are open by appointment where they sell what little wine they have in order to continue the development of their winery. 

The number of established vineyards in Leicestershire and surrounding counties is growing and they are developing well, with each year seeing improvement. The main problem is the volume of wine available and the disproportionate cost of making small amounts of wine which often keeps the cost higher than we find in chain-stores and Wine Merchants. 

To make good wine, grape vines need to have some age. It takes time to get ‘its feet’ in the ground and mature and time is one thing that cannot be bought. Many English wineries now have vines aged well into double figures with most fruit being produced as Sparkling. This is bottle fermented in the same way 

as Champagne but we must refer to it as ‘English Sparkling Wine’ [ironically even if produced in Wales!]. 

One winery that is well established, with many vines now over 30 years old is Halfpenny Green Vineyards who are in South Staffordshire. Started by Martin Vickers who planted his first vines in 1983 they now have over 30 acres of vines. The business is managed by Martin, the wines are made by his son Clive and Clive’s wife Lisa runs the restaurant, deli and gift shop. A real family affair. 

Making wines for a variety of tastes, they are also making red wines that are often difficult to ripen. The Rondo 2014 is being well received and their Sparkling Rosé I find particularly appealing. You will find grape varieties you may never have heard of, but don’t be put off. Clive’s skill as a winemaker means that they now make wines for a number of small growers up and down the country with many being awarded medals when put into competition. With prices from £10 to £14 for still wine and under £20 for the fizz you will not be disappointed. 

A number of Independent Wine Merchants are now stocking their wines so do look out for them. 

For some years I have been a judge for the East Mercian V. A. and when judging we have no idea whose wines we are tasting. It is only afterwards we are told who has been awarded the top medals and I am delighted that I am able to stock some of the wines that have shone through. 

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Do remember to drink responsibly... Best wishes – Andrew [] ,