By Anna Scott
I recently moved house. It wasn’t planned, as with most things in my life, but all happened rather quickly over the last couple of months. The reason I am telling you this is because it turns out the place I have moved to is slap bang in the middle of English wine country. You might assume that I would have picked up on these wine connections a bit earlier given my former and current profession but I had more pressing matters to attend to, such as finding somewhere to live, so the actual specifics of my new residence temporarily passed me by. We didn’t have any grand plans to leave London with such haste but my other half was offered a job opportunity too tempting to turn down so it was to West Sussex we headed. When I mentioned to a friend exactly where we were moving, he commented that it was in prime vineyard territory but unfortunately I was in such a fog of stress at the time that this went completely over my head.
That was until we were driving home from the supermarket the other day and happened to pass the entrance to Ridgeview, home to probably one of the better known English sparkling wine producers, and discovered that this particular vineyard entrance is barely a couple of miles from my new front door. It is now slowly starting to sink in. I’m not going to fool myself into thinking that this is the same as living in the English equivalent of, say, Margaret River or the Hunter Valley and the industry around here doesn’t quite live and breath wine production as those places do, but let’s face it, this is the nearest thing we probably get to a wine-centric destination so I feel it is my duty to gen up a bit on English wine production. And, well, it all seems to be in good working order – companies are expanding, exports are growing and everyone seems rather pleased with the whole thing.
So far so good. But sometimes I find it hard to get excited about English wine. This might have something to do with the price and me thinking that if I’m going to pay that much for a bottle of sparkling then I might as well pay that much for a bottle of bubbly. This isn’t particularly patriotic of me but I don’t necessarily think wine is a place for patriotism, especially when we live somewhere with as much choice as we do here in the UK. But on the other hand, I now share not just a nationality with some of these producers but also a postcode, which means I should probably be a bit more supportive of their endeavours, and first on my list of supportive things to do is visit a few of the operations. However, traipsing around an icy vineyard and drafty cellar in February doesn’t really compete with staying indoors so this will have to wait. Luckily most of these places seem to be in agreement with me on this and don’t open their doors until spring anyway. In the meantime, I will pay a visit to a few cellar doors and perhaps forgo the delights of the more famous region across the English Channel by spending my hard-earned cash on a bottle or two of English sparkling instead (not that I can afford to purchase fizz that often anyway).
You may remember a post I write a few months ago regarding the lack of decent wine shop in my former home of Brentford and the implications this had for last minute wine purchases. Well, one of the unfortunate side effects of moving to my particular village has been yet another lack of decent wine shop. So I shall at least remain grateful for the vineyards I now have on my doorstep because I don’t think the London Borough of Hounslow has any of those yet.