When this page was first written in 1999, there were
no online merchants selling English wine. Now there are and a very convenient
way of buying English wine it is. As you will learn further down this
page, it can be quite difficult to find English wines - and particularly
the one you really want -at the more traditional forms of retailers.
Now, as for everything else we buy, doing so online
has become a practical and convenient method and this is quite revolutionary
given how difficult it used to be to find a conveniently located merchant
who stocked a decent selection of English wines.
Now you have two basic choices - firstly, to buy online
from the vineyard. Most vineyards offering this service have a selection
of wines for sale and some also offer wines of other smaller vineyards
located in their area (see our vineyards directory).
Secondly, you can buy from a specialist online English
wine merchant. Two merchants launched these services a few years ago but
sadly the Recession came along and times became too hard. However, the
good news is that one, Best
English Wine has now been relaunched under new ownership
and is fully operational from their base in Kent.
British supermarkets have been enormously successful
both in helping convert the British to wine drinking and also in supplying
them. Most wine sold in Britain is sold at supermarkets. Sadly, you will
have to search the shelves to find English or Welsh wines - but, good news,
you should find at least 2 or 3 in any large supermarket. If you don't -
complain to the Manager. And if your supermarket is in an area where there
are some English or Welsh vineyards but none of their produce is on the
supermarket's shelves - complain even more. Some of the supermarkets now
have a policy to stock local produce and this ought to include local wine
(assuming, of course, that the vineyard can reach a satisfactory commercial
deal with the supermarket). Two of the best in this respect are Waitrose
and Safeway - though now that Morrison's have taken over Safeway I don't
know whether this policy will survive - I hope it will.
Some supermarkets have an "own-label" English wine
(e.g. Co-op supermarkets). Look carefully and you'll get some clues as
to the area and perhaps even which vineyard it may have come from - the
Co-op own label English Wine looks to me to be the produce of Three Choirs
vineyards and winemakers - which makes me very happy to buy it!
The English wine you buy from a supermarket is not
likely to be the best wine that the particular vineyard produces - for
one thing the supermarket will have wanted quite a large quantity to make
it worthwhile stocking. My experience suggests you will get very good
value for money from English wines bought at supermarkets and they are
likelt to be very characteristically English wines. Expect to pay between
£5 and £10 a bottle.
Most Off-licences are, these days, members of
large groups, such as Threshers, Victoria Wine, Odd-bins. As with supermarkets,
expect to have to search the shelves quite hard to find an English wine
(and watch out to avoid the dreaded "British wine").
However, persistence should pay off and, as at an average sizeable supermarket,
you should find two or three English wines on display (If you don't complain!
In no other country in Europe would wine retailers fail to stock the wines
of their own country - indeed the problem is more likely to be reversed
and it may be difficult to find anything else).
If the Off-licence concerned is in wine-growing country
(which means really all of England and Wales from the south coast up to
about Yorkshire, then any self-respecting Off-licence really ought to be
ashamed of not stocking some of the most local English or Welsh wines. However,
in practice, the one or two English wines you may find may well come from
some of the largest English vineyards - such as Denbies or Three Choirs
- but they're none the worse for that. Expect to pay between £5 and £10
There are still quite a few specialist wine merchants
around, especially in places like English cathedral towns. You might think
that these would be the best bet to be stocking local wines, but I fear
reality may be the opposite.
This is an area where I would be happy to be proved
wrong, so any specialist wine merchant who wants to convince "English-Wine.com"
otherwise please e-mail "ew" at "english-wine.com and we'll
happily put the record straight.
|One wine merchant, Dr. Stephan Muller of Cambridge Wine Merchants
Ltd has contacted us: "Hi - read your bit about
Wine Merchants and them not stocking english wines. Well, I'm an independent
merchant, a major supplier to Oxford and Cambridge Colleges and I
stock around 12-15 English wines at any one time. Soon to be sold
on the web too. Just to put the record straight! :)" So, if you
wish to take advantage of Stephan's far-sighted policy, he can be
found at 2 King's Parade, Cambridge, CB2 1SJ, England.
If you visit a specialist wine merchant who doesn't stock
at least half a dozen English and Welsh wines - take him to task - he
should! Those that do, may well stock some of the more interesting and
slightly dearer wines. Expect to pay £6 to £30 a bottle.
Specialist food stores
Some delicatessens and food/drink departments
of stores such as Fortnum & Masons, Harrods and some of the provincial departmental
stores stock English wines. Again, if they don't, upbraid them suitably!
Those that do - expect to pay £5 to £15 a bottle.
Vineyards & winemakers
Arguably the best place to buy your wines is from
the vineyard where they were grown and from the winemaker who made them.
Most often the two are the same - many English vineyards both grow their
grapes and make them into wine on the premises, as vineyards have done traditionally
for centuries. Not surprisingly, some of the young English wine industry
also does what many continental vineyards do - pool their resources into
a co-operative winery, or use the services of a particular winemaker/winery
who has established a good track record for winemaking. Not every winegrower
has the time, or resources, or expertise to do the job of winemaking as
expertly as others who have developed their expertise and have invested
large sums in state of the art wineries. The choice is yours - and indeed
part of the enjoyment of English wine is that you can see where it was grown
and made and you can judge for yourself what the differences are - but be
warned; there are no simple answers!
At the vineyard you are likely to get good deals.
No middlemen to pay for one thing. And you will be able to taste before
you buy. And if you are buying by the case you may well benefit from a
discount. Expect to pay anything from £5 - £6 a bottle for "bin-ends"
to £8 - £10 for the good average wines and up to £15 - £30 for the specials,
such as dessert wines, sparkling wines etc.
Not all vineyards are licensed to sell by the bottle
at the vineyard, but they will tell you how best to buy their wines.
Many vineyards will sell you their wines by mail order and this is a
particularly good method when you already know the wines you are buying.
Some individual vineyards now sell online (look at the vineyards on this
website), but be careful only to entrust your credit card details to secure
A new policy for retailers?
Something I would like to see adopted as a standard
policy by wine retailers, whether they be supermarkets, off-licences,
specialist wine merchants or online merchants, would be for them to stock
local wines as a matter of course. By local I mean, wines of the same
county, or within say 20 or 30 miles. Of course there are a few English
wines that one would not seriously expect any self-respecting merchant
to sell - but there's really very few of these. And some vineyards don't
want to sell via retailers, preferring to maximise their income from what
might be quite a small production by selling direct to visitors and established
customers. But if retailers of all sorts did stock at least a small selection
of English wines, this would help to grow the market and as global warming
brings England ever further into the wine producing belt, this is going
to be important for the industry. It would also help the consumer discover
what they often have overlooked.
Robert J. Tarr © 2000 - 2011 last updated 11 February
| Top of page | Home |