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English Wines in London

22 May 2015 Josh Barrie

It’s London Wine Week and English wines are back on menus, and receiving critical acclaim. So London Calling has found the best places to find English wines in London. Enjoy!

 

Most of us now know about England’s surge in winemaking prowess. From Sussex to Cornwall, Kent to Oxfordshire, the English countryside is producing bottles winning international acclaim. There’s not even any point mentioning the tentative nature of France any more. We’re solidly big in the game.

But while we’re surging, there remains much to be explored. And we must continue to celebrate despite the face London Wine Week has drawn to a close. Before it began, I was lucky enough to go down to West Sussex to visit Nutbourne, a beautiful vineyard that’s been making English wine for decades. Producers there make award-winning fizz nearly every year; its Sussex Reserve 2013 just won IWSC gold – the first still English wine to do so.


There are countless others: Denbies in Surrey; Three Choirs in Gloucestershire; Adgestone on the Isle of Wight; and Valley Farm, Suffolk…to name just a few. Indeed, British supermarkets and restaurants are continuing to trumpet and serve more English tipples. Waitrose particularly does well to feature many, even stocking Plumpton College’s red wine – still a colour of relative rarity over here.


But their occupation on London’s menus remains sparse in comparison to their fame. It was on the bus back from Nutbourne that I wondered when the last time I went to a bar in the capital and ordered a glass of ‘local’ stuff. It doesn’t appear as frequently as it should.


So here are a few top places to go to sample the country’s finest…


When talking English wines in London, Roast sets the standard. Most places just dot a couple intermittently and that, while at least partly pleasing, only furthers the novelty overall. Perhaps in 2015 our vintages should be front and centre – as they are at Roast.


Kent’s Chapel Down vineyard features heavily on the restaurant’s list – with bubbles, both white and rose, and still whites too. There’s also Chapel Down Union Red 2013. There’s also space for Limney, from East Sussex, a bottle from the Stopham Estate, as well as others from Hampshire’s Hattingley Valley, and Ridgeview, Nyetimber, Gusbourne Estate, and a wine called Sugrue Pierre, which sounds French, but isn’t. 


Two other restaurants known for being wonderfully British are the Shed in Notting Hill and Rabbit on the King’s Road. These two are the work of the Gladwin Bros, who grew up farming and foraging on the Nutbourne Vineyard and its accompanying farmland.


The three brothers are pretty obsessed with English wine and English cooking, and although the restaurants are in swanky neighbourhoods they’re much more about rustic charm and foraged foods. Obviously, they serve plenty of what Nutbourne has to offer. We got through a fair bit of the ‘Nutty’ when visiting, which is a fizzy blush of sorts and feverishly refreshing. There are many more.


South of the river in Clapham, Trinity has also got a collection of English brands on its wine list. There are only a few, but they’re quite special – the place is high-end, after all. Trinity serves a sparkling rose, Balfour Brut from Kent, Ridgeview’s Grosvenor fizz, and a Chardonnay called Skye from the Hush Heath Estate. Fittingly, the restaurant puts its solitary white under its own section, ‘England,’ and not in the old world!


As far as eating goes, a less formal alternative is Greenberry Café in Primrose Hill. This is a really charming place and it’s very much in to serving English wine. As far as I know, it’s the only place in London that does a sparkling from the Langham Estate in Dorset – but I’m happy to be corrected! Either way, it’s a nice bottle.


Thinking more about only drinking (yes), Shoreditch is better known for cocktails. But the Worship Street Whistling Stop, while also pretty tuned in to the whole mixology vibe, is also a rather dab hand at the English wine celebrations. If a bar were a brogue and a bowler hat, this may well be it. Its charming influences also mean it serves wines made by Sussex makers Ridgeview and Nyetimber.


For a much posher feel, if you fancy it, there’s a place called the Gilbert Scott in St Pancras. It’s all about champagne there, really, but it also has Nyetimber available. After all, it’s one of our own fizz that trumps champagne at tastings a lot of the time.


To end this worded tour – isn’t it a shame you’re not drunk – we go to Vinoteca, a wine bar chain in a few London hotspots. Soho, King’s Cross, Farringdon – that sort of thing. You’ll find sparkling from Kent and Sussex, and one of my favourites of all, the Pinot Noir Rose Brut from Camel Valley in Cornwall. There are a couple of English still wines thrown in for good measure, too. Vinoteca likens the Camel Valley Bacchus 2013 to Sancerre, which is rousingly high acclaim.


Still, there's more exclamation to be stirred in us. So we better get drinking…

 

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