Learning more about English and Welsh wine

Arguably, the best way to learn about English and Welsh wines, as with any wines, is to drink them. But you may well want to learn more about the varieties used, how and where they are grown, the problems and difficulties, why some things work and others don't - and so on. Some - quite a bit, we hope - of this you can get from this website. But there are, of course, many other sources of information:

3 main sources

Books - both those specifically about English and Welsh wines, and wine appreciation books generally   Newspapers and magazines - news stories and local/human interest features   The World Wide Web - links


Books about English/Welsh wine and vineyards
General books about wine and wine appreciation
The World Wide Web - links

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Books about English and Welsh wines and vineyards

Not surprisingly, there are not a lot of books specifically about the appreciation of English wines or about its vineyards. It is, after all, a young and small industry. However there are some, and all listed here are worth at least dipping into, some are sufficiently absorbing to hold one's attention right through and at least one is indispensable.

Unfortunately there are (I believe) no books on English wine currently in print - though I am happy to be proved wrong about this - please e-mail me if you know otherwise. But those listed below may well be available from public libraries and secondhand book shops. Sometimes, English vineyards have books for sale and some may have old stock and throw up some gems - this is the way I have acquired some of my own collection.

The Vineyards of England

by Stephen Skelton, MW,
Viticultural Consultant

published by S.P.& L. Skelton, 1989, pp.286, softback.
ISBN 0-9514703-0-2
Brit.Lib 941.058'8

Stephen Skelton's books are the indispensable volumes on English wine.
There are four currently in print:
English Wine
English Sparkling Wine
UK Vineyards Guide 2010

more information and how to buy on Stephen's website - www.englishwine.com


The Guide to the Vineyards of Britain

by Don Philpott

published by Moorland Publishing Co. Ltd, 1989, pp.190, hardback.

ISBN 0 86190 322 6
Brit.Lib. 941.085'8

Profusely and well illustrated in colour, Don Philpott's book, published in the same year as Stephen Skelton's, is an attractive volume, lying somewhere between the "coffee table" volume to impress one's visitors and the fact-packed ascetic comprehensiveness of Stephen Skelton's book. Many, I suspect, would find it an easier book to read, and it certainly gives a sound and wide ranging picture of the English wine industry of the day. Its section on individual vineyards is nowhere near as comprehensive as is Stephen Skelton's, though there is lots of interesting detail about the considerable number which are covered.

The difference, I guess is that Don Philpott is a food and wine writer, whereas Stephen Skelton is a viticulturist and winemaker. Often the author who is really expert in his subject is not so good at writing about it. In Stephen Skelton's case this is not so and for my money, whilst I am very happy to have Don Philpott's book on my bookshelf, the volume which is much more dog-eared is Stephen Skelton's.


A Taste of English Wine

by Hugh Barty King

Pelham Books/Stephen Greene Press, published by the Penguin Group, 1989, pp.208, hardback.

ISBN 0 7207 1839 2

If anyone wanted know which year was the apogee of the revival of the English wine industry they could do worse than see in which year most of the books on English wine were published. That would probably mean 1989. This fascinating volume has the added cachet of a foreword by Lord Forte of Ripley.

As one would expect of a professional social and industrial historian - and obviously immersed in the world of English winegrowing and making - this is a very competent and extremely readable volume. The only thing it is arguably short of is colour - every one of its many and interesting photos and illustrations is in monochrome - one might think that this was just a result of printing techniques and costs at the time, but the curious thing is that Hugh Barty-King's previous volume on English wine (see below), published 12 years earlier has at least some colour.


A Tradition of English Wine

by Hugh Barty King

Oxford Illustrated Press, 1977, pp.250, hardback.

ISBN 0 902280 47 3

Perhaps not surprisingly, High Barty-King's first volume on English wine is rather longer on history - from 43 AD - than on the modern industry, with nearly 60% on the former and 40% on the latter. And even that latter 40% is mainly a history of the modern era of English wine growing and making. His later book (see above) is almost the reverse, and whilst both books stand very well on their own, the combination is really excellent in both departments - serious history and modern review.

If you can track down copies of these books you will, as a person interested in English wine, be rewarded with a good few hours pleasurable reading and useful reference sources to boot.


General books about wine and wine appreciation

Jancis Robinson's Wine Course

by Jancis Robinson

published by BBC Books, 1995, pp.320, hardback.
ISBN 0 563 37098 X

There is, of course, a myriad of wine appreciation books, many of which are very definitely in the category of "coffee table books" not designed actually to be read. Jancis Robinson's book to accompany her BBC TV series of the same name is certainly a coffee table book in the sense that it is lavishly illustrated but not in the sense that it has actually got real meat between the covers.

Sadly, despite her expert knowledge of wine, this book does follow the pattern of general wine appreciation books - and indeed of wine merchants and supermarkets - in consigning English wines to the barest mention, seemingly almost an afterthought occupying only just over half a page, on the last page of detailed country-by-country descriptions, in the company of China and Japan, and India.

By all means buy or borrow Jancis Robinson's book for all the interesting information it contains on the world's wines - but don't expect to learn much about English wine from it.

Whilst it is true that Britain, not being a major wine producing country itself, does have access to the full selection of the world's wines, it is difficult to believe that any other country in the world which does at least produce a few million bottles a year would fail to ensure that its own citizens were aware and informed about them. Not so in Britain where with wine at least, the home produce is not fashionable enough to merit more than a passing mention.



Sometimes magazines have features on wine, mentioning English wine, and from time to time, features specifically on English or Welsh wine - most often such features focus on a particular vineyard and major on the "human interest" aspects of the story. They can also include some interesting and useful information about English wine growing and production, so don't just turn the pages over without at least skimming through to see if there are any gems!


English and Welsh wine has made the news columns more often than you might at first think. Extremely rarely this has been when a producer has been up before the Beak for doing things he shouldn't - the most outrageous case in recent times was probably the vineyard nearly at the tip of the Lizard peninsula who was unable to produce a crop so he faked it by making wine from home kits and passing it off as English wine. Seems a few, who obviously had no idea what English wine should taste like, were duped but he was quite quickly caught and brought to justice. Other news items often concern issues like European regulations, and the consequences of the low duty wines being shipped across the English Channel.

The World Wide Web

Of course, the Internet, particularly the World Wide Web, is a good source for information about English Wine. Many vineyards have their own websites or webpages (see, for instance those on this website - click here.

A website which may be of interest to those who would like to know more about the industry and/or growing and making wine is our sister website which serves the English wine industry - www.viticulture.co.uk

Robert J. Tarr © 2000/2011

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