Looking for the best English pinot noir to buy? Want to know more about English wine? Read our expert guide, then check out our favourite vineyards in the UK for tours, tastings and overnight stays among the vines.
About English pinot noir
Pinot noir is the most widely grown grape in England, making up 33% of the total crop, but little ends up as red wine. Nearly all of it, along with other classic champagne grapes grown here, chardonnay and pinot meunier, is used to make brilliant, highly revered English sparkling wines.
Our cool climate is perfect to produce the acidity in grapes that gives sparkling wine its essential steely backbone, but it has often struggled to provide enough warmth to develop the fruitiness required to make really good still wines. While English fizz has gone from strength to strength over the past decade or so, frequently beating top champagnes in blind tastings, its red wines were less acclaimed, often criticised for being too mean and too lean.
The long, hot summer of 2018 changed all that when pinot noir in England reached levels of ripeness more usually found in its spiritual home of Burgundy. Smart English winemakers used some of these grapes to make seriously impressive red wines that are now on the 2019 and 2020 vintages which are full of bright fruit market, and their later vintages are looking equally fine.
Climate change may mean that good ripeness can be achieved more easily, but the improving quality of these wines is also to do with more mature vines that give better concentration, as well as advancing wine-making techniques and technology.
Pinot noir is a fragile grape that’s susceptible to disease, so yields can be low, and only the best grapes are picked for red wines so they’re made in small quantities – less than 10% of England’s wine is red or rosé. This is reflected in the price, and is why you won’t often find them in supermarkets.
The best English pinot noir is characterised by its delicacy and freshness, light in body and relatively low in alcohol, with berry fruits and savoury, herbaceous notes. Served slightly chilled, it makes brilliant summer drinking, versatile with food but also lovely to drink alone. It’s also used to make some great rosés that are generally released earlier than the reds; look out for the 2019 and 2020 vintages which are full of bright fruit and youthful verve.
Best English pinot noir wines to buy
Simpsons Wine Estate Rosé 2020, £14.99/£11.99, in a mixed case, majestic.co.uk
Gorgeous salmon-pink rosé with juicy, peachy fruit and an appetising salinity.
‘I’d Rather Be a Rebel’ Rosé 2018, £17.50, blackbookwinery.com
Made by an acclaimed urban winery in London, this dry rosé has delicate scents of summer fruits and rose petals with a dazzling citrus finish. Ace as a sundowner with green olives alongside.
Litmus Red Pinot 2018, £25, litmusenglishwine.co.uk
Fruity and fresh with a silky texture, underpinned with an earthy spiciness from its ageing in French oak barrels.
Bolney Estate Dark Harvest 2018, £11.99, waitrosecellar.com
Bolney Estate makes great pinot noir but this blend of rondo and regent grapes is a more affordable option for a lovely English red.
Gusbourne Boot, Hill Vineyard, Pinot Noir 2019, £35, gusbourne.com
The wine in 2018 was so good, it sold out. The newly released 2019 is pale and ethereal, with whispers of raspberry and cherry, herbs and gentle spice; drink slowly and contemplatively.