Delicious home-grown wines made from the Bacchus grape
New Hall Bacchus, Essex 2016 (from £9.50, Newhall wines; Mr Wheeler Wine)
English winemaking used to be a rather eccentric, eclectic pursuit. Certainly, the set of grape varieties farmers used were not the kind you’d really find elsewhere in the world. They were mostly hybrids or crossings that had been bred for hardiness and early ripening, chosen for their ability to withstand the English climate rather than their reputation for making fabulous wine. Despite the fizzy gold rush that has, in the past couple of decades, filled English vineyards with Champagne’s chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, the eccentric originals survive and, in the case of white bacchus, thrive, not least in this zippy, citrussy example made by pioneering Essex producer, New Hall
Camel Valley Bacchus, Cornwall 2015 (£13.95, Camel Valley; Waitrose)
Given that English sparkling wine is so transparently inspired by champagne, there is a case to be made for bacchus being England’s signature wine style. Its origins are in Germany – it was bred in the Pfalz region in the 1930s from a crossing of silvaner and riesling with müller-thurgau – but its popularity there has dwindled, and most growers these days tend to use it as a bulk, blend makeweight. In England, by contrast, it’s proved capable of making wines that recall sauvignon blanc in their hedgerow leafy greenness and refreshing pulse of gooseberry and citrus. And it has found a home in vineyards from Suffolk to Camel Valley in Cornwall, where it yields an almost exotically fruited but racy example.