English White Pinots

15 Wines Tasted

Could one of the white Pinots become a signature grape for England? We gathered the most comprehensive selection of English Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc ever assembled at one tasting – and put our panel of professional buyers and wine industry experts to work.

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To see full tasting notes for each of the wines in the tasting, please visit the Marasby White Pinot Pioneers Tasting Notes page. To find out what our panel of professional wine buyers and industry experts thought of the wines overall, read on….

A Signature Grape for England?

English Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc are generating an outsize level of interest. On many of our vineyard visits, it is the small cuvées of Pinot Gris or Pinot Blanc, tucked away at the back of English wineries in an egg-fermenter or a one-off experimental barrel, that get our winemakers the most excited. Unlike Bacchus, which can have a divisive flavour profile, and Chardonnay, which for many consumers comes with baggage, some are saying that English white Pinot has the potential to form a delicious and unique new wine style in the UK, with mass-consumer appeal.

Yet, right now, still wines made from Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc are a tiny component of English and Welsh wine production. Still wine accounts for just 30-40% of UK winemaking, depending on the vintage. Pinot Gris is only our 9th most planted variety, behind little-known grapes (at least in terms of the average drinker) like Solaris and Rondo. Pinot Blanc isn’t even in the top 10 at all.

So does the current (tiny) output justify the excitement? To find out, we gathered what we understand to be the most comprehensive selection of English white Pinot – Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc – ever assembled at one tasting. We invited a panel of professional wine buyers and industry experts to taste them blind and answer three questions:

  • What were their overall thoughts on the quality and consistency of the wines?
  • Were they able to discern an ‘English white Pinot’ style common to the selection?
  • Did they feel that either of the white Pinots had the potential to become a signature grape for England?

Who was on the English white Pinot panel?

This was Marasby’s most diverse panel to date, representing a wide cross-section of industry expertise and opinion. From the world of fine dining, we had Charles Beaini of Kerridges and Davide Renna of Hide. From the trade we had natural wine champion Doug Wregg of Les Caves de Pyrene and fine wine-focused Matt Tipping, CEO of Jeroboams.

These were joined by journalist and winemaker Chris Wilson of Gutter & Stars, and English wine bloggers John Mobbs and Allie Cope. Steve Parker and Ed Dallimore attended as published British food and wine authors.

Marasby’s Instagram competition winner Brenda Ong gave some brilliant insights as a non-industry consumer, interested in but new to English wine. Finally, Grace Taylor, manager of our venue Tap & Bottle in London Bridge, also joined us to taste the wines and give us her views.

English Pinot Pioneers tasting panel

The Panel Discussion:

Overall Thoughts:

With such a diverse panel of tasters, it should be no surprise that opinions were divided about English white Pinot. In broad terms, tasters fell into two camps:

First, those looking for a cleaner, more accessible, and commercial style admired the consistency of the Pinot Gris flight. Within this flight were many wines that, according to Jeroboams CEO Matt Tipping, any drinker “could order in a restaurant, enjoy, and think that it is a good bottle of dry white wine that compares favourably to other crisp, dry whites from around the world.” British food and wine writer Steve Parker agreed, saying that consumers “could buy and enjoy most of the Pinot Gris as good dry white wines. That’s a long way ahead of where we were five years ago.”

This group also appreciated the flight of Pinot Blanc, yet while they felt it contained some stand-out wines, they felt it was much more variable in quality and style, and of more appeal to wine enthusiasts than the typical consumer. As English wine blogger John Mobbs put it: “the best examples of Pinot Blanc were more interesting than the best of Pinot Gris. But I also found there was a higher proportion of the Blanc that I didn’t enjoy as much compared to the Gris.

On the other hand, a second group focused more favourably on the winemaking and style variation within the Pinot Blanc. These panellists were invigorated, rather than put off by, the diversity of the flight. Natural wine champion Doug Wregg “looks for terroir,” and found this “particularly in the Pinot Blanc.”

For winemaker Chris Wilson, “it is nice to see experimentation. I’ve been trying to get some Pinot Blanc fruit for a while now. That’s the grape I’m interested in – I think it’s really versatile.”

English White Pinot Style:

Overall, the panel felt there was too much regional and winemaking variation to talk of an ‘English’ style. The wines made from Essex-sourced grapes certainly offered distinctively weighty and concentrated fruit character, regardless of winery location, or winemaking style. Yet even within this one region, there was too much variation between the output of different wineries to talk of an ‘Essex style’.

However, there did appear to be something that distinguished all the wines from those of most other countries. Matt Tipping summed it up best, saying that “clearly these wines are not from California or Australia. They’re clearly not from a hot climate. So, there is a consistent character running through them – it just happens to be a cool-climate character.

Tasting English Pinot Gris

England’s Signature Grape? The Marasby Panel Verdict:

There are now some seriously delicious and complex white wines available from England, made both from Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc grapes.

If you enjoy crisp, dry whites, you can now buy English Pinot Gris and be fairly assured that it will compare favourably to other dry whites you’ve enjoyed from around the world. The wines are consistently well-made and well-balanced, and offer ripe, clean, fruit character.

If you’re into experimentation and enjoy more unusual flavours and textures, you’ll find plenty of diversity and interest in English Pinot Blanc, including delicious orange, skin contact, and oak-influenced wines.

Yet the question is… do we even need a new signature grape? As Allie Cope put it, “studies suggest Sauvignon Blanc is the most popular white wine in the UK with the consumer. So, I wonder if the natural crowd-pleaser we have to offer here is a Bacchus. The Pinots might offer more excitement to a particular group of wine enthusiasts, but they’re probably less suitable as a signature grape.”

At Marasby, we go one step further than Allie. If there’s one thing that has been a signature of the UK wine market, it is that over centuries of trading we learned to love the diversity and interest of drinking wines from all over the world. That’s what made London the traditional centre of the world wine trade. We are just as unlikely to stop enjoying such a variety of wines in favour of one signature English style as we are to stop enjoying Indian, or Thai, or French, or Italian food.

The fantastic thing about the UK wine industry is that, in just a few short years, it has already developed an incredible diversity of grapes and flavours, textures and styles. That we’re not subject to a rule book 25ft high is a great strength, allowing our winemakers to follow their interests, experiment, and make great wines that will appeal to a wide range of consumers.

The most important thing for the industry is not to develop a signature grape, but that our winemakers are clear about what they’re trying to achieve, who they’re trying to appeal to, and make great wine that fits the brief.

England’s signature can, and should be, the consistently high quality of its diverse output.

Notes From the English White Pinot Pioneers Tasting:

To see full tasting notes for each of the wines in the tasting, please visit the Marasby White Pinot Pioneers Tasting Notes page.

Davide Renna, Wine Manager, Hide

Comments From Our Panel

English Pinot Pioneers

Davide Renna, Wine Manager, Hide

We have lots of customers, particularly from the US, Australia and New Zealand, who are surprised to discover that there are still wines made in England. They might know the sparkling wines, but they haven’t tasted English still wines before. I think it’s too early to say that Pinot Gris or Pinot Blanc might be a signature grape, but I think they have great potential. I can’t wait to see them in 5 years’ time.

Comments From Our Panel

English Pinot Pioneers

Steve Parker, Author of British Cheese on Toast:

In terms of English style, I don’t think there is one. My view on ‘English style’ wine is that Bacchus smells of England – the hedgerow thing. I think from a marketing point of view, that’s a much easier story than an Alsatian or northern Italian grape planted in England.

“I just think it’s great news we’re making good consumer-friendly wines.

Ed Dallimore, Author of Vineyards of Great Britain:

Instead of trying to hit certain styles or market opportunities, as a fledgling industry, we need to be entirely focused on making the best possible wine from both grape and site… with high quality wines, the market will follow.

Steve Parker, Author, British Cheese on Toast
Matt Tipping, Jeroboams

Comments From Our Panel

English Pinot Pioneers

Matt Tipping, CEO, Jeroboams

For me what’s important is consistency from a producer. It’s less important what style you make, and more important to be able to identify a consistent style from a particular producer. That gets you brand loyalty and a signature for where you are.

As we’ve seen today, you can produce wines that have a load of texture and depth, but are quite quirky, or you can produce wines that are clean, well-made and well-presented. That is the future.

Doug Wregg, Marketing Director and Buyer, Les Caves de Pyrene:

I’m really confident of the UK becoming a powerhouse of wine. It’s good to remember that wine is secondary to farming. There’s now better farming, and more people converting to organic, regenerative, or working to generate lower yields and get the quality into the grapes. If you have good ingredients, you can cook with them.”

Chris Wilson, Journalist and Winemaker, Gutter & Stars

I was expecting there to be more variation in the Gris. There was a lot of richness and generosity. Lots of generous fruit. I’d need to dig down in the winemaking. Some nice use of old oak for maturation and possibly fermentation. Overall I preferred the richer styles.

Looking at the 2nd flight [Pinot Blanc], this was all over the place in terms of style, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! We’re a young producing country and there are lots of different ideas. Things don’t have to all sit within a bracket. It’s nice to see experimentation.

Comments From Our Panel

English Pinot Pioneers

Allie Cope, Content Creator @englishvineyards

If you go on a vineyard tour somewhere that makes still wines, they will tell you that Bacchus is our signature or that’s what we’re known for. Bacchus is probably more consistent, and people know what they’re buying.

At the same time, I loved the wines – particularly Stopham Pinot Gris and Missing Gate Pinot Blanc. I hadn’t tasted any wines from Missing Gate before and I was very pleasantly surprised.

John Mobbs, Content Creator @greatbritishwine

I found more commercial, consumer-friendly wines in the Gris – more approachable and easy-drinking. Personally, I like that cleaner style of wine – less the natural wine style, but I do think it’s great that we have the diversity and it’s important we have those too

Allie Cope, English Wine Lover
Women tasting English White Pinots

Comments From Our Panel

English Pinot Pioneers

Grace Taylor, Manager, Tap and Bottle

I was really pleasantly surprised! I was worried that there was going to be a problem with acidity, but in fact I was shocked by how elegant and well-balanced the wines were as a whole – how complex, some with honeysuckle aromas I didn’t think you could get in our climate.

Brenda Ong, Marasby Instagram competition winner

I hadn’t tried many English wines before, but I was really surprised! They were really fresh and easy to drink. The first flight [of Pinot Gris] would go really well with fresh seafood, or other light summer flavours.

I was a little daunted to be surrounded by wine experts, but I loved the experience!