Over the years, British wine merchants would compete to secure Beaujolais Nouveau for their stocks. But now Britain’s first young red is being made near the English border with Wales.
“It’s not a wine to be taken too seriously, it’s a fun drink that takes on the spirit of Beaujolais Nouveau,” explained winemaker Simon Day at his Ledbury winery near Hereford.
In the midst of the gloomy atmosphere around the country during the coronavirus pandemic, he said he hoped the wine would become a “little ray of sunshine to end the year”.
The tradition is released “English Nouveau”, as well as its more famous French name, on the third Thursday in November.
The nose has Herefordshire red aromas of cherries, blackberries and cranberries as well as exotic fruits, according to Day.
He recalled how in the late 1970s and early 1980s British wine merchants competed to be the first to take back Beaujolais Nouveau directly from the producers.
They returned from France “driving as fast as they could” in sports cars filled with boxes of wine, he told AFP.
“It was a big event. Lots of pressure, lots of media, a lot of fun,” the winemaker explained, adding that he hoped good English red wine could be celebrated in the same way.
The 2020 vintage from Herefordshire Winery is Day’s second after the winemaker became the first to produce a prime red wine in the UK.
The entire production will amount to 2,500 bottles and will be sold in the exclusive supermarket chain Waitrose for £ 11.99 ($ 15.79, € 13.36).
The price is more expensive than Beaujolais Nouveau, most of which sell for between five and ten euros in France.
Instead of the traditional variety of Gamay grapes used in Beaujolais, the English winemaker uses Pinot Noir.
Otherwise, the winemaking process remains the same by using charcoal maceration to extract flavor and color from the grape without an excessive taste of tannin.
This greeted me when I got to work this morning. Glowing golden vineyard at sunrise. Is it me, or are the autumn colors especially good this year? pic.twitter.com/G2kgwW8CFO
– Simon Day (@vineandwine) October 23, 2020
Space is increasingly being given to Herefordshire vineyards, mainly at the expense of orchards for apple orchards that have become less profitable.
In 2019, the UK had 3,500 hectares of vineyards – four times the space devoted to vines in 2000.
Over the past ten years, Wine GB, the UK’s professional wine growing association, estimates that the land for vineyards has increased by 150 percent.
There are currently 770 wineries in the UK, of which almost three quarters (72%) produce sparkling wines.
Day said global warming is a factor in the growth of British winemaking.
As one of the country’s few second – generation wine producers, he has observed that the harvest takes place on average two to three weeks earlier than at the beginning of his career.
At the beginning of Britain’s wine revival in the 1970s, Dag’s father made wine just “a stone’s throw” away from where he now works.
“Despite my parents’ best efforts to get me a job, the wine had me in its grip, I really wanted to make wine,” he said.
He worked in Australia, the United States and even France before returning to Ledbury, a historic market town halfway between Worcester and Hereford in the shadow of the spectacular Malvern Hills.
His vineyard has the advantage, compared to others in the area, that it is spared rain from the west, which creates what Day describes as a “relatively dry climate”.
The soil also allows the vines to dig their roots deep into the soil.
Winery in the south of central England, which has a long reputation for cider, can trace its origins much further than a couple of generations.
Writings from 1276 from the Bishop of Hereford contained orders to plant vines on the nearby slopes.
There are also signs that wine from the vineyards was sent to the pope at that time. “So it was exported even then,” Day said.
Today, 90 percent of English wines are sold locally but also in Scandinavia, North America and Australia.