Wine was forced onto England by the Roman Empire. By the Norman Invasion in the 11th century, vineyards were commonplace. In the early 1500’s there were 139 active vineyards, 11 of which were owned by King Henry the 8th. The echos of this era can be seen around London in areas such as Vine Street and The Vineyards.
Wine From England
It’s cold, wet and gray in England and many crops fail to ripen. Cool climate varieties like Madeline Angevine, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are popular, although some wineries keep trying Cabernet Franc. With all the classic Champagne varieties growing in UK fields, Brits have developed their own version of bubbly. The Bolney Estate in Sussex has received several awards for their classically inspired sparkling wine.
Pico Island, Azores, Portugal
An untouched piece of viticulture history lies in the Azores Islands off the coast of Portugal. The volcanic island of Pico is home to a massive man-made rock labyrinth created during the 1400’s. The intricate network of thousands of 5-foot rock walls protect tiny plots of Verdehlo vines. The wine made from grapes grown in the labyrinths is called Pico Verdehlo and was treasured by Czars and nobles in Europe for centuries. The area is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site, supposedly the last one in existence.
An Ancient Wine Treasured by Czars
The volcanic island has extremely poor soil and is mostly covered with basalt rocks. The stone walls offer protection from ocean winds and salt spray. The plots are tiny and hold only a few vines with thin openings for vineyard workers to go through. The people of Pico have removed international disease-resistant varieties in favor of Verdelho, Arinto, Terrantez, Boal and Fernão Pires; the common grapes from 500 years ago. These wines are hard to find, but you might have some luck looking for the following regions: Pico, Biscoitos and Graciosa.
Gobi Desert, China
The Gobi Desert is the last place on earth anyone would expect a wine region. With only 6-8 inches of rain a year, vineyards must get water from the nearby Yellow River. Despite the lack of water, the greatest challenge in the Gobi Desert is surviving the winter. Farmers must bury vines underground to protect them from deep freeze. Because of the desolate conditions, the vineyards don’t suffer from disease or rot, making it easy for wineries like Chateau Hansen to produce organic Chinese wines.
Wine in China Predates Western Civilization
China’s wine history dates back to long before all of Western Europe. The oldest fermented beverage in the world was found in the Yellow River basin around 6000-7000 BCE and contained rice, honey and hawthorne fruit and/or grapes. The China wine industry is growing rapidly and already has 11 distinct wine growing regions containing hundreds of indigenous Chinese grape varieties.
Strict Hindus avoid meat, mushrooms, garlic, tea and alcohol. The rest of India does drink wine and the current market is 2 times bigger than in 2009. India cuisine is famous for pairing perfectly with off-dry white wines such as Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris.
Where in India are They Making Wine?
The epicenter of Indian wine production is around the city of Nashik, which is 100 miles northeast of Mumbai. The climate in Nashik is similar to parts of California, Australia and Spain. Table grapes are already commonly grown here and there are now a growing number of wineries. Check out Sula Winery and Vallee de Vin for more.
About Nashik Climate from Sula Winery India – sulawines.com
What Vineyards to Visit in India – goindia.about.com
About China Wine Regions – Chateau Hansen
UNESCO World Heritage Pico Island Photos