English Wines and Conditions

At present there are 450 genuine small vineyards in the British Isles, spread throughout southern England, including Cornwall and the Isle of Wight, Wales, and even Ireland.

It is very difficult for would-be wine growers to find a good position for a vineyard since the positioning of the vineyard in terms of its elevation, soil, position in respect of the sun, prevailing wind, and water etc. is of utmost importance in the moist and cool climate. It is only possible to make wine when these circumstances are ideal.

It is important that a vineyard in the British Isles is on a south-facing slope where it will catch the maximum sun and warmth. The soil also needs to be free draining, and the hill must not be susceptible to cold or in a frost pocket. Wind must be able to circulate freely throughout the vines but not to such an extent as to cause damage. The slope must not be too wet because of the risk of fungal infection. Finally the vineyard must not be too close to the sea to prevent the vines from absorbing excessive salt. The more the vineyard fulfils these demands the greater is the chance that good wine can be made from its grapes. The geology also plays a role of course and the British Isles has a tremendously diverse geology. Clay dominates in East Anglia though this is interspersed with flint or coarse gravel almost everywhere. Along the banks of the Thames loams and sand dominate with gravel here and there. Chalk, sandstone, and clay are common in Kent but in Canterbury (Elham Valley and Nicholas at Ash) there is chalk rock, Tenterden and Biddenden have loam and sand, and Lamberhurst is sited on loam, sand, clay, and sandstone (all these vineyards are in Kent). The famous Carr Taylor vineyards in Sussex grow their vines in soil that is sandy but rich in ironstone and other metallic minerals, with underlying soft slate.

Biddenden  Wine Schonburger KentClay and or sand dominates elsewhere in Sussex. Chalk is found again in Hampshire at Winchester but at Wellow it is gravel-bearing loam. Further to the south-west the geology is dominated by sand and rocks. Some of the northern vineyards on the Isle of Wight are sited on heavy clay (Barton Manor), while the southern ones of Adgestone are on hard chalk. Wiltshire soil is chiefly sand and chalk, that of Dorset is mainly chalk.

The south-westerly vineyards of Cornwall are on soft loam with granite here and there. Devon is well- known for its attractive sandstone and slates that ensure excellent drainage. Wales and the Welsh Borders mainly have sand and clay soils with localised red sandstone as at Three Choirs.

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