British Winemakers Bask in Climate Change Sunshine

By J.C Dick

Vineyard Wanderers (Courtesy Reuters)

Two people wander gaily through a vineyard in the balmy autumnal sunshine, buckets in hand picking pinot noir grapes. However this is not Burgundy, or Champagne, this is Dorking, home to Denbies Wine Estate and the largest vineyard in England with 265 acres of land under vines.

Denbies are in the process of reviving a tradition of winemaking in Britain that has been relatively unseen for over 600 years. This revival is due to the global shift in climate that has seen the southern regions of England begin to have more temperate climates that are near perfect for wine production. Research carried out by the University of Burgundy has shown that the best latitudes for winemaking in the northern hemisphere may move 1,000 km (620 miles) north by the end of this century if nothing is done to stop global warming.

This has naturally caused a rift in opinion as British winemakers such as Denbies are keen to cash in on an improving climate but in traditional wine growing regions outrage is growing. These developments prompted fifty famous French chefs and sommeliers to write an open letter to President Nicolas Sarkozy urging action as fine wines, “jewels of French culture,” were in danger.

However though the genuine advent of British wines seems a little further off in the future as British vineyards are still struggling to ripen grapes that produce the most popular varieties of red wine. As well as these unavoidable natural issues, cost continues to prove a problem as English red wines sell for approximately 8 pounds a bottle, against an average price of 4.26 pounds for a bottle of wine in the UK. Wine critics and wine buyers remain unconvinced as Wine buyer Field said while some “very nice” reds are being made, Berry Brothers has been unable to find one it feels is good enough to stock.