Like sending coals to Newcastle...

WHAT could a Frenchman, whose uncle owns a vineyard in the Cote du Rhone, possibly learn about wine from visiting an English vineyard? Quite a lot, according to 19 year-old student Julien Miran , who is spending six weeks on a vineyard in Shotley.

WHAT could a Frenchman, whose uncle owns a vineyard in the Cote du Rhone, possibly learn about wine from visiting an English vineyard?

Quite a lot, according to 19 year-old student Julien Miran , who is spending six weeks on a vineyard in Shotley.

He believes there is less experimentation in France, especially in the five Appelation Controlé regions, whereas the newer English wine producers are less afraid to try ideas out.

In France, wine can be matured in oak casks but the technique of putting oak chips in the vats, as is done at Shotley, is prohibited.

Julien, a student at the Lycée Viticole de Beaune, in Burgundy, has just completed the first week of a six-week stay on the Witenagemot Wines Ltd vineyard.

The vineyard was established by Stephen Williams in 1997 and has already produced vintages, particularly of white wine, that have earned the approval of his French guest.

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He said: "In France we don't have a similar wine because we don't use the same varieties, but, yes, it's as good as French wine.

"The colour is lighter than French wine and the wine is more aromatic."

He believes the differences between English and French wine are partly due to the different varieties of vine, but also to the differences in weather, temperature and soil, which in East Anglia is more acid.

Since he arrived, Julien has learned that he passed his professional A level (the equivalent of an NVQ) with flying colours and will now go on to a further two years of study.

His eventual ambition is to own a chain of wine shops in every European capital selling wines from all over the world.

So does he think English wine could sell in France?

Julien said: "I think the first problem for English wine is the history because in the past in England the wine maker didn't make a very good product and now the new wine makers have to overcome that [past reputation]."

The second problem, he said, was that to get a foothold English wine growers would have to form a national association to be allowed to exhibit at European trade fairs.

However, he felt, there was a definite possibility that the vineyards developing across East Anglia could become recognised for producing a particular taste that would sell in France.

When he has finished his training, one of his ideas is to come back to England to help set up a national wine growers' federation.

He said: "I think it would be more interesting to England to sell wine all over Europe because in my opinion people would like to have a light wine and the wine here is light in comparison to the French.

"The white wine from here would go perfectly with fish and the red with cheese."

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