Wine might not immediately come to mind when you think of England, but that is about to change! To quote London's Evening Standard, “Where once it meant dodgy bottles of back-garden plonk, now (England’s) fantastic fizz is leading the charge, regularly sweeping up at awards and competitions.” The burgeoning wine scene has grown so much that this week is actually “English Wine Week.”
To learn more about English wines, we’ve turned to an expert, Audrey Annoh-Antwi, sommelier at a super cool new F&B concept, Planque, a wine-focused members’ club and restaurant located inside a pair of East London railway arches in Haggerston, a trendy part of London.
Before we get into English wines, tell us a bit about why you became a sommelier and your career path. My initial interest drinks wise had been beer. I had gotten a job involving both beer and wine; my wine knowledge was lacking so I started doing the Wine and Spirits Education qualifications through work. After deciding to start the Diploma in wine I thought it is about time I immersed myself properly. You could call it a series of fortunate events. A pre-destined journey.
What skills or traits are most important to being a sommelier? I think the most important skill is listening and communication in general. The crux of my job is giving people what they want and ensuring they are looked after. I would also add empathy and patience.
Tell us a bit about Planque, it is a restaurant and wine club? Planque has many facets but it is a restaurant first and foremost, anyone can book a table and enjoy some delightful plates from Sebastian Myers and the team. But we also host wine tastings, wine dinners, and collaborations with chefs. Some months have a theme; May was Jura, and June is Beer with curated events in keeping. There is a membership aspect that includes wine storage, members' socials, and more.
Recently the New York Times ran a story that Millennials are not so into wine, do you see that changing? It depends. Natural/low intervention wines have been able to engage. And now there are so many more casual venues to enjoy wine. But alcohol consumption amongst younger people is reducing and other alcoholic drinks have made inroads into grasping younger consumers. Wine makers still have a lot to learn.
Okay, so English wines? Many of our international readers might not have tried English wines. Exports are limited but growing, according to WineGB, sales of English sparkling wine doubled in 2019 abroad. I am actually a huge fan of Nyetimber. What are the kinds of English wines to look for? Sparkling is where English wines shine but there is a lot of variety and experimentation. If skin contact white wines are your thing Westwell, Tillingham, and Ancre Hill Estate have offerings. Wines made from grapes that grow well in cooler climes; you have your usual suspects with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Meunier but there are some fragrant herbal whites made from German crossings: Bacchus, Ortega…and keep an eye out for wines from urban wineries, Renegade and Black Chalk.
Can you recommend us 3 - 5 English wines to try?
Oastbrook Pinot Gris
Coates & Seely sparkling rose
Ancre Hill Triomphe Pet Nat
Lost In A Field ‘Frolic’ Petillant Naturel
Where are your favorite places to drink wine in London, besides Planque?
Noble Rot for its ever changing by the glass list with many special options poured from Coravin.
People’s Wine in Dalston,
Thanks so much for enlightening us about English wines, Audrey!