Is English wine 'Old World'?

Should English Wine be referred to as 'Old World'?

What exactly is Old World?

Old World generally refers to wine made in countries considered to be the birthplace of wine. This tends to be Europe and the Middle East, including: France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Austria, Greece, Lebanon, Israel, Croatia, Georgia, Romania, Hungary, and Switzerland.

New World refers to countries that used to be colonies, including the U.S., and are in hotter climates, which tends to produce wines that are fuller bodied with bolder fruit flavours, and generally higher alcohol. New World countries include: the U.S., New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Australia and South Africa.

 Is England considered to be a birthplace of wine?

The Romans introduced winemaking to England and it continued until at least the time of the Normans, with over 40 vineyards mentioned in the Doomsday book.
When Henry VIII was crowned in 1509, 139 vineyards were recorded, 11 of which produced as Royal vineyards, dedicated to the monarchy.

However, in the mid 19th Century, when English Wine was just recovering from the epidemics of Phylloxera and Powdery Mildew, commercial English wine deteriorated. In 1860, the government supported free trade and cut the tax on imported wines by 83%. English wines were outcompeted by superior foreign products sold at a lower cost to the customer. Then winemaking was brought to an end with the onset of the First World War as the need for crops and food took priority over wine production.

Replanting began again in 1936, but it is believed that the oldest surviving commercial vines in the UK can be traced to 1952 at Lackham College in Wiltshire.

Expert Opinions

My opinion briefly is: geographically and historically I would consider us to be ‘Old World’. However due to the infancy and lack of tradition in the industry, along with the winemaking style and vineyard practices generally implemented, I would consider us to fit much more in place with the ‘New World’.

    - Jamie Quance-Woodland, Founder – Quance Wines

      Definitely an Old World country, and definitely an Old World wine producer. We’ve been doing it since Roman times. There is no real definition of a New World wine producer. Just one that is regarded historically/politically as a New World country and they were the countries that the Old World colonised. English Wines have definitely a New World style of wine though, best described as fruit, fruit, fruit, as opposed to subtlety, complexity and length.

        - Ged Bell, Chilford Hall Vineyards

          Ooh, that’s a toughy isn’t it? I think you could spin it either way. Technically there has been vine growing and some wine making in the UK for at least 1000 years and this could be considered ‘Old World’ but as the majority of the bigger production is in the modern era and playing catch up to France then the argument is there to New World. But yes, I would say it is Old World, even if it is more in the form of the support of the trade of the Old World and England’s French connections in the Middle Ages.

          - Lucy Robinson, Wine Educator at Wine Fox Tasting Academy