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This blog site includes news on latest wines, food, events, offers and happenings at artisan & vine. It also includes stories of my wine adventures in and outside the bar, wine facts and wine profiles.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Why does artisan & vine specialise in English wine?

Hurrah! English Wine Week is upon us and, of course, as the owner of London's first wine bar and shop to specialise in English wine, every blog entry I make this week will be about English wine. Let's start at the beginning: Why English wine?

Why would an Aussie (me), reared on belting Shiraz and sun-scorched Chardonnay choose to open a wine bar and shop that would specialise in English wine?

Yes, I think English wine tastes good. I'm a wine lover, there is wine from pretty much every country that tastes good to me. Good taste gets you over a hurdle, but it doesn't warrant investing your entire life savings to open a specialist wine bar.

The beauty of English wine is that it is almost exclusively made by such small producers, with no significant budget for flavour manipulation or artificial vineyard treatments, that the wine cannot help but reflect the Sense of Place of where it's from. Most English wine is extremely distinctly English, which in a modern age of mass-production and global knowledge sharing, is no small feat.

I’ve travelled a lot and lived in a few different countries. One of my favourite ways of coming to know a country or region is through indulging in the wines of that region. It’s that same old speech from me: Sense of Place, Sense of Place! There is no question in my mind that English wines are underexposed in their own, let alone in the global, market. At the same time as local food production in England is enjoying a celebrity chef inspired renaissance, English wines sit on the shelves of local community markets or the homes of wine maker’s relatives; it’s a fascinating contrast.

In order to bring the English wine experience into artisan & vine, I insisted on only working with winemakers who would deal with me directly – no distributors or wholesalers. I visited a wide range of English vineyards and tasted over 300 English wines to come to the 25 or so we have on our list at any one time. The wines are generally fresh, low alcohol and easy drinking – and they’re getting better with every vintage! English wine making may be in something of an infancy - I view this as an exciting thing.

After nearly two years of serving English wines to our customers I am proud to report a very positive response. The feedback we get often is that people are happy simply to be given the option to have a taste of home. The Bacchus from our friends Bob and Carol of Brightwell Vineyard in Oxfordshire remains one of our best selling wines in the bar while three of the five best selling wines (at time of writing) on the artisan & vine online shop are English (Nyetimber Classic Cuvee, Camel Valley Bacchus Dry and Biddenden Ortega). It’s clear that the demand is there. So how is supply? Well... I have to save something to blog about tomorrow...

Image: artisan & vine's vineyard day trip to the quaint Bolney Wine Estate in East Sussex in June 2009.

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