English Wine, British Wine, Quality Wine and Table Wine

You may have come across these terms and wondered what they all mean. The first two, English (or Welsh) Wine and British Wine are very different. English or Welsh Wine must by law be made from English or Welsh grown grapes. They are a national product - just the same as French Wine, or German Wine. British Wine is made in Britain, but using imported grape juice concentrate from abroad. The country of origin need not be specified. The distinction between Quality Wine and Table Wine is more subtle. Most of you will no doubt be familiar with the French Appellation Controleť (AC) designation, which specifies the region of origin and restricts the type of grape used. French table wines are not subject to the same controls.

In England an equivalent designation did not exist until 1991, because we did not make enough wine to justify setting one up. The disadvantage of this was that all our wines had to be called table wine by law, and hence tended to be viewed as similar to continental table wines, irrespective of their true quality.

In 1991 the government introduced a Quality Scheme, and you then began to see an increasing number of wines bearing either the description Southern (or Northern) Counties Quality Wine psr, or Southern (or Northern) Counties Designated Origin. Whilst these were not very easily remembered phrases, they were nevertheless important in that you can be sure that such wines are not only produced from grapes grown in the designated geographical region, but that they have passed exacting standards for chemical analysis and taste. Such a designation says far more about the actual quality of the wine than any equivalent continental designation. At Moorlynch we won such a status for our two varietal wines in the very first year of the scheme, amounting to over 10% of the first year quality approvals issued for the whole country.

However the story didnít end there because wines produced from certain varieties of grape were excluded from gaining Quality Wine status. These hybrid grapes are a cross between the pure European Wine Grape (Vitas Vinifera), and the American wild vine. Hybrids have the advantage that they retain the disease-resistant properties of the wild vine, whilst having most of the wine producing qualities of the Vinifera. To accommodate these grape varieties the existing two categories were expanded into three:

At Moorlynch, since we had a large proportion of hybrid grapes, we mostly made Regional Wines.

However the story didnít end there!! As a result of tightening of EEC legislation on wines the whole subject went under review at the beginning of 2002, and at the time of writing this website (mid 2003) the definitions are still not clear. Only one thing is certain, from early 2004 wines will not be allowed to be called English (or Welsh) Table Wine. The likely outcome is:

And you thought you were just buying a bottle of wine!

Moorlynch Wines

In addition to our still wines we make sparkling wines which we call Vintage Reserve, Special Reserve and Pink!. Because we make these using the Traditional Method we are permitted to label them Quality Sparkling Wine.

Virtually all our wines are white, except for the small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon (grown in a polytunnel) which we used to colour our Pink! sparkling wine.

Most of our wines are blended - that is to say they contain the juice from several different varieties of grape. They are characteristic of the new English style - light, fruity, and with a flowery nose. They are ideal for summer drinking. Principal grape varieties were Muller Thurgau, Madeleine Angevine, Findling and Huxelrebe, with smaller quantities of Regner, Optima, Bacchus and Reichensteiner. To suit varying palates and occasions the blends are made with differing sweetness, and called Somerset (dry), Sedgemoor (medium dry) and Polden Hills (medium or medium sweet).

We have also produced single grape variety wines. These are wines made wholly, or predominantly to the extent of at least 85%, from one grape variety, but experience taught us that in our climate it is usually better to blend different varieties together to increase the complexity of the wine.