Terroir and Changing Climate Behind English Sparkling Wine Success

We recently posted about the dramatic increase in English Wine Producers. What is driving the spectacular success of English Sparkling Wine?

The South East of England is well known for its’ countryside, castles and universities.

However, the qualities of its terroir (the fancy French word for land) are less well known.

The chalky soils of the Sussex Downs, formed some 60 million years ago, are the same as those in the Champagne region of France. During the Cretaceous period much of Northwestern Europe was covered in a shallow sea that left a thick chalky soil for today’s vineyards.

Chalk is soft limestone and very porous meaning that vine roots can more easily grow. It drains well and is best for grapes with high acidity levels used for Champagne and sparkling wines.

Sussex is the sunniest and warmest part of the UK. Unprecedented climate changes in the South-East has had the effect of increasing temperatures year on year for the last 20 years. The South-East now has a similar cool climate to Champagne, which lies on a latitude less than 100 miles to the south.

Previously hardier German grapes such as Reichensteiner and Riesling, more at home in the Rhine region of Germany, were prevalent across the South-East.

Thanks to changes in the weather the finer, more delicate Champagne grapes such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir can now be correctly ripened.

Thanks to the combination of climate change and terroir, the South-East is producing sparkling wines that are arguably the finest in the world.

If you fancy learning more here’s a short clip from BBC Inside Out which explains more.

Image is of “Seven Sisters cliffs and the coastguard cottages, from Seaford Head showing Cuckmere Haven (looking east – 2003-05-26)” by Stephen Dawson, Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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