English wine - a sparkling success
Over recent years the UK wine industry has gone from strength to strength, producing world leading wines. There are now commercial vineyards as far north as York and as far south as the Channel Islands covering in excess of 2000 hectares.
We have been actively involved in supporting the wine industry for many years - from helping optimise product quality to troubleshooting problems when they arise (see 'Wine stability' for an example).
The unique and special nature of English and Welsh wines is reflected by the growing number of PGIs (Protected geographic indication) and PDOs (Protected denomination of origin) awarded to wine and wine growing areas to protect their reputation. We are the approved laboratory for analytical and sensory approval of PDO/PGI wines.
Two thirds of English wine production is sparkling wine. These wines are now fetching a premium on wine lists and one major pub chain has replaced champagne with a sparkling English wine option that proved more popular during a trial period. Many producers are exporting their wines as far afield as China, Japan, the USA and Australia.
Wine production and quality
To produce sparkling wine, first, the base wine is produced; this needs to have certain flavour, colour and analytical profiles on which to build other flavours. The second stage is the secondary fermentation in bottle to produce the pressure (bubbles), then ageing on the lees (yeast cells) for a minimum of 9 months. This produces what are termed yeast autolysis characteristics. Logically the longer it is left, the more this character is obvious, but too much is not desirable, so timing is crucial.
The final stages are riddling, disgorging, adding the dosage (a sugar solution) to ensure that the flavour balance is harmonious, corking and wiring . A further period of resting is advised to ensure that the flavours are integrated. All of these stages have an impact in terms of quality, again, timing is crucial.
Wine technical support
The UK is a relatively cool climate for growing grapes resulting in lower yields and higher prices. Consistent, high quality wines are needed to balance the higher prices point of English wines. This can only be achieved by taking a long term view.
This is where our service is most beneficial to our clients. The journey from grape to bottle is a complex one. The sensory characteristics of wine change throughout its life - some varieties/styles of wine mature or evolve in bottle, others are best consumed when the wine is fresh and young.
We work with our clients to optimise quality at point of sale through analysis, advice, consultancy and training - combining scientific analysis with experience and knowledge of the impact of wine making processes and packaging on wine quality. We can advise you on how to improve grape quality, what yeast to use, fermentation conditions how to optimise flavour and aroma, ageing and the balance between sugar and acid at bottling.
To find out more about our wine quality and troubleshooting services or for details of our wide range of other services, including analytical, consultancy and sparkling wine please get in touch or click here.