English PDO Wine – Who Knew?

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We’ve been hearing a lot about English wine lately – especially sparkling wine. I’ve even heard that wineries in Sussex have applied for PDO status. When I heard that I thought that English wines must have truly arrived – who would have imagined a PDO wine from England!

Little did I know that English Wines have had PDO status since 2007. Welsh wines have a PDO as well. And both regions—England and Wales—have had PGI status for wine, also since 2007. We’re going to have to get used to using terms like Chapel Down, West Sussex, and Hush Heath in relation to quality wine.

Who knew?

The PDO for English wine specifies that the wine must be produced 100% using grapes that are grown in England at a maximum elevation of 220 meters (722 feet) above sea level. Enrichment (chaptalization) is permitted within certain guidelines, as well as sweetening (after fermentation). Acidification is not allowed (although exceptions can be made in exceptional years at the discretion of the Commission). The list of approved grape varieties has about 80 grapes —including both vinifera varieties and hybrids.

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English PDO sparkling wine  must be produced using the traditional method.  Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir Précoce, Pinot Munier, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris are the only varieties allowed for use in English PDO sparkling wine.  The wine must spend at least 9 months aging on the yeast lees in the bottle before being disgorged.

The main difference between the PDO and PGI standards seems to be that there are no limits on the elevations for grape growing for PGI wines. Other production regulations are similar, yet a bit less stringent in terms of yields (100 hl/ha allowed as opposed to 80 hl/ha), enrichment, and sweetening. English PGI sparkling wines also have a long list of allowed varieties (as compared to the short list of six allowed in the PDO).

Here’s a few more fast facts on wines from England and Wales:

  • Number of vineyards: more than 470
  • Number of wineries: more than 135
  • Average annual production (2010-2014): 3.77 million bottles
  • Acreage under vine: 4,940 acres (2,000 hectares)
  • Largest single vineyard: Denbie Wine Estate (165 acres/177 hectares)
  • ...

    Style of wines produced (approximate): 66% sparkling, 24% still white, 10% red/rosé

  • Most widely grown grapes: Chardonnay (21%), Pinot Noir (19%) and Bacchus (9%)—followed by Seyval Blanc, Pinot Meunier, Richensteiner, and Müller-Thurgau.

The United Kingdom (which includes England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland—at least for now) has protected many of its products with geographical indications and designations of origin. They include 62 different foods—including Traditional Cumberland Sausage, Stilton Cheese, and Cornish Clotted Cream—as well as Irish Whiskey, Scotch Whisky, six types of cider and three types of beer (Kentish Ale, Kentish Strong Ale, and Ruland Bitter). Other protected products include Native Shetland Wool, East Kent Goldings Hops, and Anglesey Sea Salt.

Who knew?

References:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas… missjane@prodigy.net

About bubblyprof
Wine Writer and Educator...a 20-year journey from Bristol Hotels to Le Cordon Bleu Schools and the Society of Wine Educators

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