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English Wine Week set to fizz

Published:  19 June, 2020

Picnics, quizzes, virtual tours, tastings and winemaker webinars are among the myriad events set to fly the flag during English Wine Week on 20-28 June.

With organiser Wine GB determined that the pandemic will not dampen the spirit of the annual event, this year’s schedule of activities has adapted to ensure that a host of socially safe initiatives can go ahead.

Activities range from Ridgeview’s ‘A Glimpse Behind the Scenes’ winemaking vine-to-glass virtual tour, to Black Book’s English wine virtual quiz, complete with tasting sessions giving clues to unlock a ‘code breaker’, by way of socially distanced wine picnics at estates such as Chet and Waveney Valley Vineyard.

Elsewhere, and typically while being encouraged to sit back with an appropriate glass of English fizz or still wine, armchair tasters can tune in to the owners and winemakers of estates such as Rathfinny, Wiston, Stopham and Camel Valley (plus many more), giving access to the people behind some of the greatest wines in the country.

Oz Clarke is popping up too, joining Charlie Womersley for a YouTube “gallop through England’s vineyards” via online tastings in celebration of home-grown vino, while Nik Darlignton of Graft Wines is set to run 100km between English vineyards during English Wine Week, launching an initiative to raise money for the Drinks Trust.

English Wine Week has generated allied initiatives and spin offs too, such as tourism-focused Sussex Modern’s invitation to indulge in a mixed cases of English wines, while taking a tour of wineries in and around the South Downs on Sussex Day, with all profits from sales going to support selected local arts and cultural venues.

“It’s been a challenging time for venues across the county, but we still wanted to do something to mark Sussex Day. We have several award-winning wineries in the Sussex Modern partnership and we thought a celebration of the amazing wines of Sussex seemed very fitting,” said Mark Driver, co-owner of Rathfinny.

Meanwhile, Plumpton College, the spiritual home of English wine, is using the Summer Solstice to link English Wine Week to its ‘Light Strike Awareness Day’, to highlight for wine lovers the importance of keeping clear glass bottles out of the light to avoid fast damaging the wine inside.

This year’s English Wine Week comes at a critical time for the industry, with global uncertainty due to the pandemic set against ambitious plans to continue to ramp up both production and exports.

Nyetimber’s owner Eric Heerema is among many prominent producers, including Rathfinny and Ridgeview, that are focused on driving up exports, with the former saying that production at the estate would double to 2 million bottles annually by 2030.

‘Production of English sparkling wine is certainly increasing every year, and although it’s just a guess, by 2030 there could be at least 20 million bottles of sparkling wine being produced,” added Heerema.

Full details of English Wine Week and planned events can be found on the Wine GB website and those of individual wineries.