View Full Version : flippin' 'eck... Yorkshire wine

Polia Ivanova
01-07-2005, 01:07
Not exactly recipe, so I stick it here not elsewhere...
Attitudes changing to English wines

LEEDS (Reuters) - Rows of vines fill the landscape -- to the visitor it could be Bordeaux or Tuscany.

But the grapes they bear have to battle the strong winds and heavy rains of northern England, far from the sunny slopes of France and Italy.

"You don't get the best wine in a hot climate," said George Bowden, surveying his vines on slopes between the former mill towns of Yorkshire.

"The climate in Britain is not bad at all."

For 20 years Bowden has run the country's most northerly commercial vineyard, Leventhorpe, whose name means "Town of men who like their drink".

"It's just two degrees warmer in Burgundy than it is here," the chemist-turned-winemaker said, walking between the vines as clouds chase away the sunshine of a spring afternoon.

English wine used to be held in very poor regard, but attitudes are changing, said Bowden, who produces about 15,000 bottles a year of white, red and sparkling wines.

He sells his wine mainly to local hotels, restaurants and wine merchants, but customers have sent it to Germany and Japan.

And Leventhorpe has even received French connoisseurs in its winery. Bowden said they were impressed with what they tasted, raising their eyebrows and muttering "Oui!"


Archaeological evidence shows English vineyards can trace their roots back to Roman times, but the country's modern industry is only about 50 years old.

England currently produces 1.8 to 2 million bottles a year from 2,000 acres (810 hectares), mostly way down in the south.

"It's same with what happened with Australian and New Zealand wines. Fifteen years ago no one thought it could be done, but look now," said 57-year-old Bowden.

While Britain is one of the top wine importers in the world, there is still a lack of knowledge about the local product among Bowden's compatriots, who regularly cross the Channel to stock up on French wines.

"Eight out of 10 English people don't know about English wine. They should at least try it," Bowden said.

Worse than ignorance is snobbery.

"People have an image of how wine is made in France and they don't associate it with England. They have a different image of how the wine is grown. It's not as romantic (here)," he said.

Red wine accounts for about a tenth of the total of England's output, but the wine getting the most attention at present is sparkling, which makes up around 15 percent.

Two varieties of English bubbly recently beat a French champagne in an international testing.

"There has been a great change in attitudes towards English wine, people are looking for something new and different," said Julia Trustram Eve, of the English Wine Producers' Association.

"Of course we can't produce an Australian-style shiraz but English wine has a unique flavour. English white is light, crisp, aromatic and fruity."


Bowden came upon his site by chance, a field away from an old Roman road.

It was snowing one morning as he drove past and all the fields in the area were covered.

When he drove back several hours later, the snow had melted on that particular field, while its neighbours were still white.

"The south-facing slope drains extremely quickly and warms up rapidly," he said.

Bowden does most work himself, turning the soil and pruning the 8,000 vines.

In a small shed, he processes and ferments the grapes. In a corner, a bar awaits those keen for a taste.

The choices include Seyval Blanc, a delicate white, and Madeleine Anjevine, described as having a hint of peach and apricot and a slightly spicy aftertaste.

Among those whose palates have been satisfied is Robert Malpas, a restaurant director from York.

"The wine is popular with customers and it goes very well with Thai food," he said.

"If it wasn't good we wouldn't include it on our menu."

Bowden had tinkered with wine-making before, but a trip to a sun-drenched estate in California provided his inspiration to take the plunge.

"Nothing beats sitting back on a summer's day, drinking your own wine, in your own vineyard," he said.

Even in Yorkshire.