Everything from the best regions to the best vintage.
These are the 11 most important things to know when buying English Wine. How did we land on these 11? Essentially they are the answers to the questions we are most often asked. This little tool kit will help you navigate the English and Welsh wine scene and find the right wine for you.
1 Enjoy it for what it is
England and Wales are close to the limits of where it is possible to fully ripen wine grapes. All of our vineyards are located above 49.9 degrees north. That means while our summer daylight hours are long, our average temperatures are comparatively low.
Accordingly, there’s no escaping a cool-climate style in our wines… and that’s great! Lean into the vibrantly pure fruit of our wines, and their zingy spine of clean, crisp, moreish acidity. You’ll discover a fast-emerging, creative scene full of delicious, food-friendly flavours.
2 Yes, we know that it’s more expensive than some wines made elsewhere, and that’s OK.
When you buy cheap wine, you’re principally paying for tax and middlemen. Once you knock off the VAT, import duty, and retailer margin, there are only a few pence left to pay the people who actually grow the wine. Typically, that has to take place somewhere with poor vineyard workers and industrial-scale production. Furthermore, the wine will have to travel thousands of miles to end up on your dinner table.
Buy an English wine, and you’re making a choice to buy more locally, sustainably, and mindfully. A much bigger proportion of the money you pay goes to the people doing the massively hard, creative work of making it for you – especially when you buy direct from the winery with Marasby. And your wine will travel just a few miles down the road to arrive at your door. It might be a little more expensive, but it demands a far lower price of the earth and its people.
3 If You Want The Best English Wine Look Beyond The Supermarkets.
UK supermarkets are some of the best in the world, offering a range of foodstuffs unmatched in most other countries. Yet their size dictates what they’re able to stock. Producers who supply supermarkets must be able to do so at scale, and that typically means more industrial-scale production, like larger fields, more automation, and less personal involvement. That’s often seen as the antithesis of high-quality wine production, where everything is done by hand, at a human scale.
If you’re lucky enough to live in an area well-served by English vineyards, then we’d always recommend exploring a few cellar doors and getting to know the winemakers. But remember that you can always buy with Marasby direct from the best UK vineyards with one login, one set of account details, and one friendly point of contact.
4 2018 Is The Best Vintage, So Far.
2018 is England’s “Golden Vintage”. Near perfect weather conditions brought bumper crops of wonderfully ripe grapes. It was the first year many producers made a still wine. Unfortunately, many English still wines from 2018 are sold out. So if you are lucky enough to find any from this vintage snap them up. 2018 English Sparkling Wine on the other hand is just being released by many producers. The quality is superb and many producers have made award winners from this year.
5 English Sparkling Wine and Sparkling Wine (of England) aren’t the same thing.
The use of the term ‘English (or Welsh) Quality’ on a wine label is protected by law, and for sparkling wines, means that the wine must have been made using the traditional Champagne method. This traditional method generates fizz via a secondary fermentation, which takes place in the very bottle you go home with. This method produces the most complex and age-worthy sparkling wines, but it is time consuming and expensive.
For that reason, some sparkling wines are made using one of several simpler methods. The wines won’t typically be as fine, but they can be released more quickly and at a lower price point. These wines can’t be labelled ‘English Quality Sparkling Wine’, but they can be called all manner of similar-sounding things like ‘Sparkling Wine of England’.
Want something that tastes as good (or better than) Champagne? Look for English Quality Sparkling Wine on the label.
6 There’s More To Buying English Wine Than Just Fizz
Sparkling wine gets most of the English wine industry headlines – and quite rightly so. Our wines are some of the greatest in the world, beating out Champagnes in blind tasting competitions over and over again.
Yet in the last five years, there has been a revolution in the quality of English still wines as well. From the golden 2018 vintage, in which many of our producers made still wines for the first time, they have been getting better and better, as our vineyards matured and our winemakers became more experienced.
7 There’s still a lot of variation in style.
Gone are the days when buying an English wine was a high-risk endeavour. Nowadays there are so many high-quality wines being produced, that it’s easy to find delicious and distinctive English wines, whether still or sparkling.
But the youth of our wine industry is such that we haven’t yet settled on a particular grape or wine style that is distinctively ‘English’. So, while most English wines are now well made, they won’t necessarily be made in the style that you might happen to like.
To give an example, when Marasby organised an English Pinot Noir tasting, all the wines came from the excellent 2020 vintage. However, some were very light and juicy, and came in at just 11% alcohol. While others (typically from Essex) wouldn’t look out of place in a line-up of heavier, riper, red Burgundies. Whilst in the white Pinot tasting the widest range in styles was in English Pinot Blanc.
Check out the Marasby blog for everything you need to know and discover English and Welsh wines that you’ll love.
8 Different Regions Are Good For Different Styles Of Wine.
It’s good to know the top line about the different counties when you are buying English wine. You’ve probably heard that parts of England share the same chalky soil as the Champagne region of France. And this is why the UK can make such great English Sparkling Wine. Hampshire and parts of Kent and Sussex are particularly rich in this soil and are well established English Sparkling Wine regions.
However, Essex, which has clay soil, is fast growing a reputation as one of the premium counties for still wine, especially Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Read about all the wine producing counties in the UK.
9 There Are Now More Than 1,000 Vineyards In The UK
The amount of land being planted to vine is increasing each year and there are now more than 200 wineries in the UK. From established estates with hundreds of acres to micro vineyards, everyone making wine in the UK today is pushing new frontiers. And unlike any other wine producing country we’ve visited, every winery and every vineyard is different. Read the amazing stories of the producers at the heart of the world’s most exciting cool climate wine region.
10 English Wine Goes Well With Seasonal English Food.
One of the great things about England’s cool-climate wines, is that they go remarkably well with our cool-climate foods.
When you are buying English wine think about matching it with seasonal English produce. Asparagus with a grassy, aromatic English Bacchus, or garlic roasted Jerusalem artichoke with an earthy English Pinot Noir a classic pairings. Check out the Marasby knowledge section on seasons for loads of other English food and wine pairing ideas.
11 Just 1% Of The Wine We Drink In The UK Is Home Grown.
The new cool-climate wine regions of England and Wales are the world’s most exciting, yet 99% of the wine we drink in the UK is still imported.
We founded Marasby to help grow the 1%, and by discovering delicious English and Welsh wines, you can join us.