While England has always been a great nation for wine consumption, it is only in the most recent decade that it has started to earn an international reputation for domestic wine production. Leading the way are three wine-producing regions in the southernmost tip of England: Sussex, Kent and Surrey. These wine regions are located along the English Channel, just across from France.
Sussex, located in the very southeast of England, is also one of the sunniest regions in all of the British Isles. It also gets less rain than other English regions, which helps to reduce the risk of traditional problems like rot. The cool climate is perfectly suited for white grape varietals, and the limestone chalk soils are actually very similar to those found in France’s Champagne.
As a result, white sparkling wines are among the most popular in Sussex. They are starting to pick up awards at international competitions, and English wine producers are experimenting with new grape varietals – such as Albarino – in creative new ways. For now, the most popular grape varietals in Sussex remain Bacchus (essentially a blend of Silvaner, Riesling and Müller-Thurgau) and the classic Champagne grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir. These latter three grapes are used extensively in the making of English sparkling wines. Other grape varietals found here include Ortega, Seyval Blanc, and Reichensteiner.
English wine – mostly sparkling whites – is very different from what is typically marketed as “British wine.” This “British wine” is usually a Port-style or Sherry-style wine made from imported grape concentrate and has nothing to do whatsoever with the quality English sparkling wines from Sussex, Kent and Surrey.
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Here is a brief audio guide on Sussex, Kent and Surrey wine region. Check it out.