Raising a Glass: Uncorking the history of English wine and supporting local

If you happen to be a fan of English wine then you’ll be incredibly familiar with the rise in award-winning vineyards in and around the home counties that are crafting world-class bottles of deliciousness. As a pub company committed to celebrating local gems, we’re thrilled to partner with neighbour, and local producer, Penn Croft Vineyard, as we bring their award-winning wines to our tables and offer you a chance to experience their passion, first-hand.

Let’s look back at the history of English wine production

For generations, England’s climate was dismissed as unsuitable for successful vineyards, and its wine production was never taken seriously within its industry. Until the 1980s, the few English vineyards that were in existence were predominantly producing German-style wines, such as Bacchus, thanks to the short growing season.

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Over the last half century, however, the average temperature in the South East of England has increased by approximately 1.8 degrees, according to Alistair Nesbitt, a viticulture and climate consultant. This, combined with the discovery of chalk contributions in the soil, has created the perfect canvas for producing what is now considered top quality, world-class wines.  According to official government figures from 2022, viticulture is the fastest-growing agricultural sector in the UK with wine production topping the list in Kent; thanks to its sunny, easterly location, which sees more sunshine and higher temperatures than most of the UK. Heavyweight award-winning Kent producers include Chapel Down and Gusbourne.

Sussex (both West and East) has also made its mark on the industry, which has seen a 90% increase in established vineyards in the South Downs National Park over the past decade. In 2022, Sussex wines received protected status, which provides a guarantee to consumers that the product they are buying is the real thing, and therefore protects against imitation products. Sussex wine joins the likes of Scotch Whisky, Welsh Lamb and Herefordshire Cider. Just a few of the big players in Sussex wine production include Nyetimber, Ridgeview and Wiston.

Closer to home, Surrey and Hampshire’s chalklands have been nurturing its vines for over 70 years, says wine specialist and journalist Rebecca Pitcairn. The 300-foot thick layer of upper chalk, which was laid over 100 million years ago, extends under the English Channel to northern France, home to Champagne and Chablis regions. Hampshire therefore is considered one of the best places for growing grapes. Big names across Surrey and Hampshire include Albury, Grey Friars, The Grange, Hattingley Valley, Raimes, and relatively new to the industry, our local neighbour, Penn Croft.

The most widely planted vine remains Chardonnay, which accounts for 31% of total plantings, followed by Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Bacchus and Seyval. According to trade group WineGB, in the height of summer 2023, as a nation, we produced 12.2 million bottles, which was a 130% increase on 2017’s production. There are a plethora of award wins on the global stage too, and in the most recent 2023 IWC competition, England’s sparkling wines continued to secure big wins, coming second only to France for gold medals, while further strengthening its reputation as a producer of world-class still wines, GB scored a total of 24 medals for its still styles.

Supporting our local producers

We know how much our customers value and cherish local producers, and it remains ever so important to invest in our local community. Every bottle of local, or English wine that is purchased, directly impacts the livelihoods of our passionate winemakers, their employees, and it drives the regional economy whilst creating sustainable jobs. So, the next time you’re here with us, do invest a little time to review our Drinks List for the award-winning local wine producers, spirit creators, and brewed pints that we proudly serve, and help directly support our local entrepreneurs.

Our partnership with Penn Croft isn’t just about delicious wines; it’s also about celebrating their dedication to crafting a planet-friendly winery, and supporting fellow independent businesses. Nestled in the heart of Crondall village, just a few minutes drive from The Red Lion, Penn Croft Vineyard planted their first vines back in 2019 using innovative techniques and sustainable practices to produce award-winning wines. From spring 2024, The Red Lion will be proudly serving the Penn Croft Bacchus and Village Sparkling Wine, so come and join us for a glass of perfectly chilled wine to accompany your meal.

In addition, we have also collaborated with them to launch a brand new two-night stay package here at The Red Lion, Pinot & Pyjamas, which includes a whole array of value-add treats, plus an exclusive promotional code that provides a 10% saving on Penn Croft English wine tours (available year-round), plus 10% savings on any purchase via their online wine shop.

What does the Pinot & Pyjamas package include?

Make the most of Hampshire being so easily accessible, and adventure to the historic market town of Odiham for a two-night weekend escape when you book our Pinot & Pyjamas package. Enjoy a weekend filled with exploring and relaxation in equal measures, from just £365.

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Included in your two-night stay at The Red Lion:

  • Early check-in OR late check-out*
  • Two nights’ accommodation in one of our beautifully calming rooms
  • Welcome glass of wine each, and two nibble dishes of choice, to share
  • Freshly prepared breakfast each day
  • £100 credit towards any food or drink transactions at The Red Lion

Plus, once you’ve confirmed your booking, you will receive an exclusive promotional code, with a dedicated link to enjoy 10% off a Penn Croft English wine tours and tasting, and 10% off bottles of wines from their online shop. Book online here, or feel free to call and speak to our friendly team at T: 01256 701 145.

If you have a celebration coming up, or you’re looking to escape for a couple of days, come visit us here in Hampshire… and be in good company.