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In 2006 a British sparkling wine was voted best in the world. Sound too good to be In 2006 a British sparkling wine was voted best in the world. Sound too good to be true? It isn't. At the time of the compilation of the Domesday Book in the late 11th century, vineyards were recorded in 46 places in southern England, from East Anglia through to modern-day Somerset. By the time Henry VIII ascended the throne there were 139 sizable vineyards in England and Wales - 11 of them owned by the Crown, 67 by noble families and 52 by the church. It is not exactly clear why the number of vineyards declined subsequently. Some have put it down to an adverse change in the weather which made an uncertain enterprise even more problematic. Others have linked it with the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. Both these factors may have had some part to play but in all probability the decline was gradual (over several centuries) and for more complex reasons.
During the 1960s, 70s and 80s there was a rapid increase in the number of English vineyards to a figure well over 400 by the late 80s/early 90s. The total area under cultivation rose to more than 2,000 acres. The trade is now stable with some 300 vineyards spread over the length and breadth of Britain and is set to double production in the near future in order to cope with the huge demand for its wines. This is in sharp contrast to the state of vineyards elsewhere in the world, and is due to both improving weather conditions and perhaps even more so to the improvements in winemaking ability and grape-growing in the UK over the past few years. David Harvey has spent a year travelling around these vineyards, from Chateau de la Mare in Jersey to Leventhorpe in Yorkshire, and from the big challengers to Champagne, Nyetimber Vineyard in Sussex to great small producers like historic Tintern Parva in Wales. In this enlightening guidebook, they are detailed and described along with tasting notes and product details. This is the one essential book you will need to learn about this fascinating but largely ignored trade.
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