East Anglia’s top tipple revealed

THEY were once the poor relations - failing to live up to the standard of their more illustrious global counterparts.

But the wines of England are now very much on the map and nowhere more so than here in East Anglia.

The region’s vineyards are going from strength to strength and yesterday some of the top growers gathered to find out which of them would be crowned the very best.

The annual East Anglian Wine Growers Association awards were held at Valley Farm Vineyards in Wissett near Halesworth - last year’s winners.

The title of East Anglian Wine of the Year 2010 went to Chilford Hall, in Linton, near Haverhill, for their sparkling rose.

Mark Barnes, wine maker and vineyard manager, said: “I didn’t expect it all. We are delighted.

“Personally I think we have better wines in the cellar. That’s not decrying this wine in any shape or form but we are not resting on our laurels - the best is yet to come.

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“It’s all about the vineyard - that’s very important. It gets lots of sun and there is good quality fruit.”

A total of 65 wines from across the region entered this year’s competition and chairman of the judging panel, master of wines Anthony Foster, said he was hugely impressed.

“I started doing this 25 years ago and the difference in the quality of wine coming through is quite earth shattering,” he said. “The winning wine was beautifully made and could be judged on a world stage. It’s got everything one is looking for in a good, pink sparkling wine.”

Owner of Valley Farm Vineyards Jonathan Craft, who has been producing wine for 20 years, said the future was bright for regional wine growing.

“The East Anglian wine industry is very positive at the moment,” he said. “Certainly if you go back just 10 years I had wine going over from year to year. Now it sells within the year.

“English wine is now much more acceptable and East Anglian wine is very sought after.

“I think global warming is inevitably having an effect on vineyards – the crop is more assured.

“However it also helps that the vines are getting older. When the vine is more mature you get an even better quality of fruit, which improves year after year.

“Next year is looking very positive, the outlook is rosy.”