English Wine Week returns on 17th – 25th June to celebrate the great wines our country has to offer. Sussex alone is home to 138 vineyards offering delicious locally-produced wines. While the UK is not the first destination that comes to mind when you think of wine, in recent years, England has proven to be home to wines, rivalling even France and Italy. To celebrate English Wine Week, we are taking a look back at the history of UK wine.

Roman times

The history of English wine dates back to Roman times when the Romans planted vines wherever they could grow.

Romans introduced the vine and the possibility of winemaking to Britain as early as 43 BC when Emperor Claudius began the conquest of the British Isles. Romans attempted to grow grapes in England but their strong trading links with France and Italy meant that wine could be imported relatively easily.

Vikings and Normans

Invasions by the Jutes, Angles, and Saxons followed the Romans’ 300 years of occupation, leading to neglected vineyards. In the sixth century, the spread of Christianity encouraged the rebirth of vine-growing, but the wine trade within mainland Europe limited vine production in Britain. The Vikings’ invasion in 793 AD disrupted viticulture once again.

Revival and Commercial Success

During the Middle Ages, monastic institutions in England cultivated vines and produced wine. By the time of Henry VIII, there were 139 sizeable vineyards in England and Wales. However, the decline of vineyards occurred gradually over several centuries, possibly due to adverse weather conditions and other complex factors.

Major General Sir Guy Salisbury-Jones planted a vineyard at Hambledon, north of Portsmouth, in Hampshire in 1952. In 1955, the first English wine to be made and sold commercially since World War I went on sale. English wine has experienced a renaissance since World War II, and today there are nearly 400 vineyards in the county gaining recognition globally for its world-class sparkling wines and dry whites.

Nyetimber English Sparkling Wine

The modern English wine industry

The modern English wine industry has seen significant growth and improvement as English winemakers have focused on producing high-quality wines. The cool climate and chalky soils in southern England are particularly well-suited for sparkling wines, which have gained international acclaim and are now considered on par with Champagne.

Increased investment and improved viticultural practices have led to better yields and consistent quality. Innovations include canopy management, improved clones, and disease control.

Many English vineyards prioritise sustainable practices, including organic and biodynamic farming. This commitment to the environment is a positive trend that we will see more of in years to come.

English vineyards offer tours, tastings, and events where visitors can explore picturesque vineyards and learn more about the wine-making process. Therefore, helping and supporting the economy.

Nyetimber Vineyard Brighton

Climate change

Rising temperatures have extended the growing season, allowing grapes to ripen more fully. These longer growing seasons contribute to better acidity and flavour development due to the benefits of the cool climate and chalky soils.

Climate change has made it possible to grow grape varieties that were previously challenging due to cooler conditions. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier thrive in the English climate. Although these points can be seen as positive impacts, unpredictable weather patterns such as late frosts remain challenging, meaning vineyards must learn to adapt to varying conditions.


The Domesday Book records 42 vineyards across England and Wales, and even mentions “Nitimbreha” from which Sussex producer Nyetimber takes its name.

Nyetimber is a world-renowned English sparkling wine producer known for its exceptional quality. Nyetimber was the first producer of English sparkling wine to exclusively grow the three celebrated grape varieties: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. All Nyetimber wines are made from 100% estate-grown grates, ensuring a strong connection to their environment.

Enjoy a glass of award-winning Nyetimber aboard the Brighton i360. Click to book the Sky Bar 360 experience!

Nyetimber Brighton i360