umbrellaScattered showers are forecast for next weekend’s May Bank Holiday, so of course that’s the start of English Wine Week. That pretty much captures the essence of what it's like to be an English winemaker - great when the sun shines but for the other 300 days of the year it's just plain hard work getting grapes to ripen in less than ideal conditions.

english grapesLuckily English winemakers needn't now hope against hope that their grapes will ripen fully in our several hundred hours of yearly sunshine as newer cross-bred grape varieties make it easier to produce a balanced and very drinkable end product.

Red grapes need more sun to ripen than white grapes, but even these can now be harvested at optimum levels of sweetness - as long as English grape growers choose not to grow varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot.

These warm country favourites need over a thousand hours of sunshine to ripen and so any UK vineyard owner seduced into planting these varieties would find the resulting under-ripe fruit only capable of making nasty, acidic wines no-one would rightly part cash for.

Dunkfelder, Dornfelder, Rondo, Regent, or a few other classily named grape varieties, are better choices for English vineyards. Their resulting wines, will more often than not, taste fruitily ripe. Blend the two red grape varieties of German Dornfelder and the Chinese-Austrian half-breed Rondo together and the result tastes like a blackcurranty Merlot with a dash of English elderberry. And we can expect more of the same fully-ripened sweet and fruity flavours to follow year on year.

What's On During English Wine Week

pouring wineIn-store tastings, food and wine matching events as well as English vineyard visitor events are some of the many things happening this week to celebrate English Wine Week (starting next Saturday on May 28th and ending Sunday June 5th).

Check out the English Wine Week website to discover which vineyards are open in your area.