WINES FROM THE REST OF EUROPE
A surprisingly large amount of wine, of several different sorts, is produced in the relatively inhospitable climate of the British Isles. Perhaps the least significant in terms of quantity is the wine made from vines grown here, according to the general methods outlined on pages 34-35. In practice this tends to be called English wine, though there are vineyards in the Channel Islands, in Wales and even on the west coast of Ireland as well as in warmer pockets of southern England and East Anglia. Names of wines to note correspond to the grapes — Seyval Blanc, Muller Thurgau and Reichensteiner – from which they are made. Biddenden, Lamberhurst Priory and Wootton are well-known vineyards.
Much more common are bottles labelled ‘British’ wine, which are made on a large commercial scale from grape concentrate imported from southern Europe and, increasingly, Germany. This business was founded on heavyweight dessert-wine styles, but an increasing proportion of British wine is now only about as strong as German wines.
This, the smallest member state, is the EEC’s least prolific wine producer (although there is rumoured to be a lone vineyard in the Netherlands too). Luxembourg wines are white, very tart and drunk almost exclusively by the Luxembourgers themselves.
Swiss white wines are usually dry and can have an appetizing delicacy often enhanced by a very slight sparkle or spritz. The French Chasselas grape performs much better when grown in Switzerland’s southern valleys where it is called both Fendant and Dorin. Some attractive Sylvaner is sold under the name Johannisberg. Most red wine produced by grapes grown in Switzerland is necessarily light (though some fairly fruity Merlots are made in the southern, Italian, part). Dole is a popular red based on Gamay and/or Pinot Noir and it is this latter grape, known as Spatburgunder, that produces most of German Switzerland’s light reds.
Wine is produced all round, and even on the shores of, the Mediterranean – although at its southern limit it is already too hot for fine wine. Only the cooler parts of North Africa are suitable for vine cultivation, and any Moroccan, Algerian or Tunisian red provides heady evidence of how easy it is to ripen grapes here.
The vineyards of Cyprus, tempered by cooling sea breezes, should be able to produce something a little finer. The slightly sparkling Bellapais is a good attempt at keeping freshness in the bottle, but the raisiny Commandaria is probably still Cyprus’s most exciting wine. Great quantities of sherry-style wine are also made here.
Much Greek wine is flavoured with pine-resin, and even bottles not labelled Retsina can have a suggestion of this curious aroma, almost reminiscent of thestore. Retsina is usually white, while the most popular red brand is the sturdy Demestica. There has been exciting experimentation with French grape varieties recently, notably at Chateau Carras.
On the eastern side of the Mediterranean the connoisseur is excited only by one Lebanese wine, Chateau Musar, the reds of which can rival some of the top wines of France, though there can be considerable variation from bottle to bottle.