English Wine? Stop laughing!

Where is the sense of individual responsibility in society these days?  My parents and grand-parents all lived through at least one world war, enduring hardship and shortage.  When something went wrong in their lives, their first reaction was to set about putting it right using their own endeavours.  I am not saying that governments and corporations should be absolved of negligence, nor that they should not take sensible precautions to increase safety for us all, but the balance of responsibility has shifted too far.  Matt Rudd writing in The Sunday Times agrees.  In a simple day out with his wife and toddler he counted a whopping 289 warnings/instructions.

If parents can’t be trusted to educate their kids to the point that they understand that coffee “may be hot”, or that smooth floors “may be slippery when wet” then the world has lost something.  In today’s litigious society (it starts in America, quickly migrates to Ireland, and lands in the UK shortly afterwards) the first thought when we have an accident is “who can I sue?  How much money can I make?”  So the inevitable result is a world full of nannying warning signs that guide us, cajole us, restrict us, instruct us but rarely inform us.

The warning on my bottle of Bacchus 2006, however, was clear and stark, “Made in England”.

Bacchus next to a bowl of fruit….for some reason

Bacchus is a grape variety I have not encountered before.  It seems to be especially suited to English terroir and used widely in English wines.  I ordered a couple of examples recently, this “Heart of England” Bacchus being from the Wine Society at £7.95 per bottle.

I am ashamed to say that I have tried very few wines from my own shores.  My first problem was to choose a glass.  I plumped for the Sauvignon one and I think that suited the grassy, herby character of the wine.  Bacchus seemed to be somewhere between Sauvignon and Chenin Blanc to me.  There was also a slight botrytis overtone in the nose – quite pleasant in such a dry wine.

From the name on the bottle though, I did expect something a little more Bacchanalian than 11% alcohol!

I liked this wine because it was different, in the same way that an Argentine Torrontés is so different from most white wines.  Despite this it was just a little sharp and one-dimensional to be worth £8 a bottle.  I’d price it at a poorly octopus (six quid) and then I’d buy more.

2 Responses to “English Wine? Stop laughing!”

  1. Ciaran Says:

    One of my favourite wines ever was English – produced in my own kitchen. The Merlot grapes were imported from Chile though, in concentrated form, so I guess calling it English wine is a bit cheeky. It was around about £50 for the grape concentrate, and we got approx 40 bottles out of it – beat that for value! I honestly rated it on a par with some of the £12 bottles I used to buy (no more of that kind of extravagance these days, you get can get quite a few nappies for £12). The downside was that those 40 bottles lasted only a few weeks!!

    I have a conservatory full of genuine English grapes though, and this year I’m determined to make wine out of them – last year a shocking proportion went on the compost heap, as we just couldn’t eat them quick enough. Maybe you can be the first reviewer, if you’re prepared to stoop as low as home-made wine. 😉

  2. Alastair Bathgate Says:


    Send me a bottle – would be delighted to try it. I presume you will be releasing end of 2008 after 12 months in new oak barrels? 😉

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