In the first of our It’s My Shout, Nina Smith works with the The Wine Wise Company and is passionate about wine and learning about wine to improve her wine choices. She is a WSET-certified educator and a Diploma graduate. Previously she worked as cabin crew at British Airways and also in the wine department at Waitrose.
White Cliffs of Dover. Sunshine on a Rainy Day. England’s green and pleasant land. Constable’s Dedham Vale, Rupert Brooke’s The Soldier. These celebrated aspects of the British Isles represent some the components of the disputed concept of terroir.
New World producers love to deny its existence, European growers bank on its significance and France bases its whole industry on the presence of terroir. The UK wine industry has yet to fully stake its claim on the differentials delivered by the variations in the land, the location, the soil, slope, aspect, altitude, weather patterns and cultivation methods, let alone the human influence of intent, investment, knowledge and care. It is a work in progress.
The French are pioneers and experts of the concept of terroir. The word alone is famously untranslatable from the French language. Reputation and price are intrinsically bound by the laws of terroir.
So, can we prove we have the terroir to rival that of France?
The swathe of limestone that stretches from Dorset, through Wiltshire and Sussex and then threads in a line up to The Wash is the same rock formation as that of the Champagne region of France. Many UK vineyards have located on this vine-friendly soil, although not exclusively. The slate-based soils of Cornwall give their own attributes to the vines and other vineyards are creating excellent wines from a variety of soil types. This green and pleasant land provides plenty of opportunity to cultivate vines which express their location.
Sunshine on a Rainy Day
It is often said that we talk about nothing else but our weather. Our climate, especially in the South East is experiencing more continental influence as the Gulf Stream fluctuates in the Atlantic Ocean. The International Panel on Climate Change has predicted a slowing down of the Gulf Stream during the 21st century, perhaps even up to 25%. This will undoubtedly lead to an increase in temperature for the British Isles and changes in growing conditions. Drought is already a major issue early in the 2012 season. Will these changes mean budburst, flowering, and ripening will be more predictable and reliable for growers?
We shall have to wait and see.
The recession has hit but there has been massive investment in vineyards and wineries in the last 10 years. Experience is everything in winemaking but these skills are being honed by the influence of improved facilities and research such as at Plumpton College in Lewes, East Sussex, and the influence of the globally recognised UK based Wine and Spirits Education Trust. The results are being seen in more sophisticated and refined wines being offered to the market.
So, the three of the ingredients to claim ‘United Kingdom Terroir’ are definitely in place We do have one more trick up our sleeve and perhaps it is one which can define our niche in the world’s wine market. An often overlooked factor of terroir is the human influence in the wine. The input of care, knowledge and passion of winemaking is always reflected in the finished product. Some wines can be clumsy, overworked, too rustic or perfected. Some are created to be inoffensive and bland, perhaps to appeal to the mass market. Thankfully, many are lovingly crafted by individuals wanting to express their creativity through their wine.
The UK has its own unique spirit which has inspired so many poets, songwriters and artists over the years. It is celebrated for its pioneering leadership, vision and humour. The British combination of human influence and provenance can, I believe, give challenge to the mystical concept of ‘terroir’. And guess what, we also have a name for it: pride. And 2012 is the perfect year to display it.
Nina Smith AIWS
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Nina Smith AIWS runs The Wine Wise Company based in Sutton Coldfield and Warwick. It is are running a ‘Celebrate English Wines’ course on Saturday 28 April which includes a vineyard tour of Buzzards Valley winery in Staffordshire, a wine tasting of English wines and a light lunch. Price is £48. Book by contacting Nina: firstname.lastname@example.org or 07804 494083.
To celebrate English Wines and in honour of Euro 2012, it is staging an ‘England v France’ tasting in Warwick on Saturday 9th June where we will be pitching English sparking and still wines against French.