Why Can’t Great Britain make Great Reds?

Nestled within the heart of the Stour Valley, approximately 15 minutes drive north of Colchester lies Dedham Vale Vineyard, a small, 40 acre property which has planted grapes since 1990. The father and son team of Ben and Tom Bunting take an eco friendly approach to wine making, generating all their own electricity, drawing fresh water from a well and treating their waste-water in a reed bed they then mulch and use to fertilise the vines with.

British wine struggles from a lack of warmth and sunshine and can often leave the grapes struggling to ripen. As with a lot of British vineyards at Dedham Vale they have planted large amounts of modern (predominantly German) cultivars as these can tolerate our slightly harsher and cooler climate. I am a big supporter of British produce and so I was hoping (albeit with a degree of trepidation) for a real gem here.

Dedham Vale Reserve, East Anglia, England, 2013

20160402_185219Red Blend (Rondo, Dornfelder, Dunkelfelder and Pinot Noir)
Limousin oak barrel aged
Alcohol 10.5%
£10 Dedham Vale Vineyard

From the bottle I was greeted by a delicate ruby red wine. On sitting there was a reasonable amount of effervescence which is often seen with wines bottled in cooler climates. On the nose was a pungent and somewhat unusual aroma that couldn’t help but remind me of stewing plums and a hint of cinnamon added for good measure. I will admit this was initially somewhat off putting. Its initial taste was disappointingly thin, with some flavours of liquorice and sweet berries coming through, but lacking that acidity and tannin to really develop the flavours on your palate. I can certainly see where the winemakers were going with the wine, but unfortunately I can’t help but feel this wine has suffered heavily from under-ripening – the Achilles Heel of British wine, which considering 2013 was actually quite a hot, sunny summer for the UK does not necessarily bode well for the short term future. Roll on global warming!

To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t pair this wine with most meat dishes. At a stretch I would suggest a light chicken or fish dish, though slightly chilled I could see it working well with barbecued meat (in a similar vein to some Australian reds). Its light nature lends itself well to drinking on its own, or with (dare I say it) summery salads (although you’d want to avoid too vinegary a dressing)!

Making red wine in the UK is a thankless task, and with a great deal of regret I have not yet tasted a single British red wine that I would drink again. Perhaps that is a somewhat harsh assessment, but whilst we produce some of the finest sparkling wines in the world (if not the finest), we still struggle with still wines, especially those of the red variety. Needless to say, I will be keen to try their white and sparkling offering at some point as I am convinced this wine does not do the vineyard fair justice. 70 points (MI)