Wines for our holiday dreams: Richard Esling March 16

After five months of lockdown and a full year of restrictions, particularly regarding travel and international travel, we are all desperate to get away somewhere – anywhere!

Monday, 15th March 2021, 3:11 pm
The Society's English white SUS-210315-145924001

Although we’re not out of the woods just yet, I have a distinct feeling that the light at the end of the tunnel is growing brighter. Bringing those holiday dreams a little closer.

With uncertainty still a massive feature concerning any future plans we may wish to formulate, currently there seem to be two destinations creeping up the list of possible destinations. One, of course, is a ‘stay put’ destination, in terms of not travelling abroad. Holidays in the UK had a huge uplift in 2020 and it looks equally promising for UK venues this year.

The Pig Hotel and Restaurant group, for example, has been inundated with bookings, with some establishments virtually booked solid from mid-May (when hopefully they can re-open) through to October. A hugely successful concept of restaurants with rooms, to all intents and purposes being relaxing country hotels, the ever-growing band of happy customers can’t wait to get back.

Look out for the new one opening in Madehurst near Arundel, later this year – the first Sussex Pig, with even its own vineyard. I definitely intend to be one of the first through their front door.

Which brings me on to our fabulous home-grown wines. English wine, once considered a bit of a joke and certainly not treated too seriously, has now most certainly come of age.

More and more vineyards are being planted every year, with projections of annual production now estimated at around 30 million bottles by the end of this decade. English sparkling wine is all great, much of it being outstanding, one good thing coming from global warming.

In terms of still wines, in my opinion, these can be much more variable.

However, progress is being made all the time and there are some very experienced producers who make fantastic still wines, from Chardonnay to Pinot Blanc and many others in-between. Underlining just how good the English still wines are becoming, The Wine Society has a new wine in its latest recommended selection – The Society’s English White 2020, £8.50 per bottle.

Made by the long-established Three Choirs vineyard in Gloucestershire, it is a deliciously fresh, vibrant and aromatic white, with flavours of grapefruit and gooseberry. Dry, with a crisp acidity, it is a very drinkable English white wine, to sip in our gardens soon, we hope, whilst planning a getaway to the south-west, or another of Britain’s wonderful regions.

Always a problem in a marginal climate, such as England, getting sufficient ripeness and sugar in the grapes for fermentation, 2020 was one of the best still wine vintages in recent memory. Great with smoked mackerel paté.