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Evelyn Wordsworth-Sewell, of Vino Gusto, in Bury St Edmunds, celebrates the renaissance of English wine





‘But is it actually any good?’ A question asked frequently by customers or friends in search of English wine.

If your last memory of English wine is vinegary plonk, then let me try to convince you otherwise. I promise you there is some good stuff out there and growing extremely close to us as well.

English wine, once an obscure and often ignored segment in the wine market, has experienced a renaissance over the past decade or so. From ancient vineyards to modern acclaim, the story of English wine is one of romance, resilience, innovation and creativity.

A bespoke English sparkling wine vinyard planted with Pinot Noir at harvest time, basking in autumnal sunshine.
A bespoke English sparkling wine vinyard planted with Pinot Noir at harvest time, basking in autumnal sunshine.

While countries like Georgia and Romania argue for a place at the top of the list, being the birthplace of winemaking, English viticulture has a long-standing history too.

It dates to Roman times, when vineyards were established in southern England – now I’m not suggesting winemaking was any good back then, but we all started somewhere.

Jump to the 20th century, where pioneering vintners began planting vineyards with modern techniques and focused on grape varieties that were better suited to our cooler climate.

Sparkling wine
Sparkling wine

Admittedly, this revival is helped by slightly warmer seasons and better weather conditions, but we are still growing our reputation and experimenting with grapes. And boy, oh boy, is it getting better each year.

Nowadays, England is renowned for its high-quality sparkling wines in regions like Sussex, Kent and Hampshire. So much so, producers like Nyetimber, Chapel Down and Ridgeview have won prestigious awards and blind tastings against renowned Champagne houses.

And look even closer to home. Suffolk, Essex and even Cambridge are producing some award winners. You MUST add bottles from Flint Vineyard, Wyken Vineyards, Burnt House, Giffords Hall and Shotley to your bucket list.

I guess we are lucky that our English countryside maps the perfect plot for vineyards. Grapes like Bacchus, Chardonnay, Auxerrois, Pinot Noir and Seyval Blanc thrive in our chalky, sandy soils and rolling hills – much like what Burgundy offers.

But as climate change ushers in warmer, sunnier seasons (though I’m writing this in a rainstorm in June) English vineyards benefit from longer growing periods, giving time for grapes to ripen in that late September sun.

The result? White wine with vibrant citrus, gooseberry and elderflowers notes, racy acidity and complex minerality. The finish truly reflects our terroir and gives it a worthy place in the lineup of worldly wines.

There truly is nothing better than a crisp, elegant glass of English sparkling or the nuanced depth of a juicy English Pinot Noir.

I’d pick our fizz over France any day.

With all of that said, you should know June marks the celebration of English wine through our own dedicated week – June 17-25. So, if you want to taste the proper good English juice, pop into Vino Gusto.

Join me and let’s raise a glass to the past, present and future of English wine.

Cheers all.

Columnist Evelyn Wordsworth-Sewell, general manager, Vino Gusto, Bury St Edmunds
Columnist Evelyn Wordsworth-Sewell, general manager, Vino Gusto, Bury St Edmunds

A little bit about myself

Born and raised in Suffolk. On a farm. With four brothers. You think I would have gone into agriculture as a career, since it’s practically in my DNA… But quite frankly wine is much more exciting, don’t you think?

My career in the wine industry began about 10 years ago, while climbing the ladder from part-time waitress to manager of a well-established English vineyard and adjoining restaurant. I combined school, university, travel and work for a few years until I discovered the art of winemaking and the joys of popping open a delicious bottle of English fizz. From grape to bottle and everything in between, there really is a lot to learn but my journey started right here, in Suffolk.

Thank you to Lady Carla Carlisle for introducing me to English wine and for spring-boarding my career.

Evelyn Wordsworth-Sewell is general manager of Vino Gusto wine shop, 27 Hatter Street, Bury St Edmunds IP33 1NE

Call 01284 771831

Visit www.vinogusto.co.uk