What are the 10 most popular varieties of wine in Britain?

popular wines in Britain

What are the 10 most popular varieties of wine in Britain?

In general, when people are asked “What is your favorite drink?”, wine is one of the most common answers among consumers in the UK. According to Mathews Lyon (2019) in Harper Magazine, most people may believe it is beer, but contrary to the assumptions, wine gets 28% vote against 23% for beer. It is not surprising when you know that Britons drink on average 108 bottles a year (Chris Wilson, 2019, Decanter). This equals to 427 pints of 4 percent strength beer. 

If wine is one of the favorite drinks in the UK, what kind of wine do British people prefer? 

Quite interestingly, English people have a tendency to refer wine to the grape variety rather than appellations like in France. This is why we are going to expose and present to you the top 10 of the most famous drunk wines in the UK referring to the grape varieties. We will also offer the possibility for wine lovers to adopt vines from these grape varieties thanks to Cuvée Privée’s adopt-a-vine concept! 

The favorite wine style among UK drinkers is dry white wine. The common names are Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. In second position comes the red wines full-bodied like Malbec and Shiraz. To find out the rest of the ranking, keep reading! 


White wines - green skinned grapes


Firstly, what differentiates white wine from red wine is the way it is made, the manner in which it is fermented. White wine is made without the skins. First the grapes are pressed off the skins and the sweet grape juice is collected in vats to be fermented into wine. 

1. Sauvignon 


sauvignon vignes

This picture was taken in Sancerre, in the Domaine Michel Girard, and particularly in the "Fait de Boltru" plot, which overlooks the small village of Verdigny. The "fait" is an old expression which means the ridge, the top. The soil in Sancerre is made of limestone and has only Sauvignon Blanc grapes.

Sauvignon Blanc is probably one of the most popular white wine varieties in the world. Originally from France, its popular green skinned grapes grow all around the globe in many Pacific American and South Pacific nations. The green skin of the Sauvignon grapes can produce two kinds of taste. The first is a grassy, strong flavored taste or a sweet and tropical flavor wine. Although the common adjectives to describe a Sauvignon Blanc would be dry, crisp and aromatic. All of this depends on the fermentation and maceration processes. However, to the nose, it has piercing and sharp notes. As most people know, other factors may affect the quality of the wine such as the climate and soils. For the little historical fact, in 1880, a crisis called the phylloxera crisis devastated Sauvignon Blanc vineyards. Now the Sauvignon Blanc is said to be a wine to be enjoyed as young as possible. They pair well with a variety of food, from fresh cheeses to whit fish and seafood. It also pairs well with green vegetables and herby dishes. 

If you like Sauvignon Blanc, you can adopt vines in Sancerre at Domaine Michel Girard with the company Cuvée Privée. His Sancerre is a 100% Sauvignon Blanc that has a slender, fresh, rich mouth with a seductive mineral accent. As most English people like dry wine, this Sancerre is a dry and aromatic white wine, typical from the Loire Valley. 


2. Chardonnay 


chablis premier cru

On this picture, you can see a bottle of Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume. Exposed to the south-west and kissed by sunlight in the afternoon, the slope of Fourchaume offers some of the best wines in Chablis.

Similar to the Sauvignon Blanc, the Chardonnay is a green-skinned grape variety from Burgundy in France where it ranges from Chablis in the North right down to the warmer Mâcon in the South. It is very popular thanks to his malleable grape. It can be made in an oaked style like Chablis made in stainless steel tanks and has lemon flavors which gives it a great freshness, acidity. Many people say the Chardonnay is in the ABC club - Anything But Chardonnay. It is often said because it is so varied and broad. So if you like Chardonnay, make sure you know which style! After all, one thing we can be sure you like about Chardonnay is that it is one of the grapes that go into Champagne! 

Cuvée Privée has a wonderful Chablis at Domaine d’Henri with a 100% Chardonnay grape. It is a very elegant and fruity wine which reveals a structured mouthfeel. 


3. Pinot Grigio


pinot grigio

Many people are confused between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio, that may be because they are from the same family. They are actually the same grape. Pinot Grigio is Italian and Pinot Gris is French! Pinot Grigio is the name of a grayish-purple grape that originated in the Alsace region of France. The Pinot Grigio will be a racy wine with lemon and lime notes, and possibly some green apples. It has become very popular as it is generally unoaked and lighter than Chardonnay (its cousin) but less taut and acidic than Sauvignon Blanc.


Red wine - blue colored grapes / black 


With hundreds of red wine grapes varieties, there is a lot to learn about. We will now cover the most common drank red wines in the UK. 


4. Merlot



Merlot is a rather deep blue grape variety and is packed with red fruits so should expect to find flavors such as plumb, strawberry, in addition to several spices, and for most grapes, when oaked, there should be a taste of vanilla. The Merlot is said to be a great blending partner with the Cabernet Sauvignon as it is more structured. The Merlot dominant red Bordeaux is found near St-Emilion. It loves clay soils and moderate climates which leads to a juicy character with everything from red berries to black plumb and chocolate depending on the weather. Little fact: it is the world’s second most planted grape variety over 260,000 hectares planted across the world. 

Cuvée Privée has an excellent Saint-Emilion Grand Cru from Domaine de la Cour. It’s our top seller! It has 90% of Merlot and 10% of Cabernet Sauvignon. On the palate the tannins melted, round, it has structured body, a good intensity and a long length. 


5. Cabernet Sauvignon


cabernet sauvignon grapes

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most widely planted black grape varieties but arguably it is also the best known. It often has very distinctive flavors with black fruits and cassis. Similar to Merlot, the Cabernet Sauvignon also goes into the most famous blends in the world, such as the red Bordeaux. The Cabernet Sauvignon can be found more in the left bank of Bordeaux. It has and brings more finesse and elegance. It has a high intensity with a mouthwatering sensation, high tanning, and a huge amount of concentration. Thanks to this structure, this wine ages very well. The ageing will make the wine lose its cassis taste and you’ll find more leather, cigar notes. 


6. Grenache 



This picture represents one of Cuvée Privée's cuvée, cuvée Marie-Louise from the Domaine des Gravennes. Not far from the winery, the vines face the stream that marks the edge of the vineyard. 

Grenache is a widely grown grape in Spain and in southern France. It can be said to be a chameleon grape as it can take many different manifestations: it can be a very light wine, or very powerful, and rich wine. It’s also a wonderful blending grape in Côtes-du-Rhône. It can grow in a range of different soils, different areas of the world, but seems to work better in cooler environments. Regarding the palate, grenache has aromatic notes of red berry fruits and subtle spicy notes of white pepper. If it is left to be aged, it can acquire leather notes as well. 

You will be able to find this grape variety in Cuvée Privée’s wine portfolio in Domaine des Gravennes with the cuvée Marie Louise. The Domaine des Gravennes is located in Cote du Rhone and offers a wine with character, complexity, spiciness and a bit of tenderness. Adopt vines in the Côte du Rhone and you’ll be able to find a mixture of grape in their assemblage. 


7. Pinot Noir


pinot noir vineyard

This picture was taken in the Domaine Désertaux-Ferrand in Burgundy. This Côte de Nuits vintage has been exclusively made from the grapes of the Perrières, which is a well-oriented parcel. Fine and fruity, it is the emblematic cuvée of the estate. The cuvée “Les Perrières” has been exclusively made from the vines of this parcel. The Pinot Noir is not the only fruit that the estate harvests. You will also find nuts; a walnut tree stands proudly in the middle of the vines.

Pinot Noir is the best loved and best known grape in the world but not very easy to grow. It has these incredible thin skins, so too hot, the grape can burst and because of that, winemakers see this as a challenge. Its homeland is in Burgundy in France. Due to thin grape skin, it makes a rather light style of red wine, as the tannins are much lower and the body is lighter. Pinot Noir tends to have red fruits flavours like cherry, strawberry and can be quite sharp because of its high acidity. But it's a lovely refreshing wine. Older Pinot Noir will give you forest floor flavors, meaty flavors and even notes of salami and leather. It all depends on how the winemaker decides to make it and how you like it! 

As an example of Pinot Noir, Cuvée Privée presents you the Côte de Nuits-Village Rouge from Domaine Désertaux-Ferrand with a 100% Pinot Noir grapes. This wine is a rather light wine, with a lot of freshness and a nice finesse.


8. Malbec 


malbec in the sun

Malbec is a grape variety from South of France compared to what people think. It is today most famously known for its varietal red wines in Argentina.  With a Malbec you can expect plenty of fruits such as blackcurrants, bramble. You also might smell some smoke, spices, and often leather flavor. It is naturally high in alcohol and high in tannins. Compared with Merlot, Malbec can taste more "rustic" savoury fruit.

Little fact, Malbec grapes were wiped out in a severe frost in 1956. However, it has now come back and in the old days Malbec was called “Pressac” which is funny enough as one of Cuvée Privée’s partners near Saint Emilion (Château de Pressac) in fact includes a fairly low percentage of Malbec in the assemblage of his Grand Cru Classé!


9. Tempranillo


tempranillo and meat

Tempranillo is the most complex grape variety as a red variety in Spain. It is the dominant grape in Rioja, the first region in Spain to become a household name. The term trempanillo comes from the word “temprano” in spanish which means “early”; in fact, it ripes earlier than others. The flavor of this grape leaves a taste of cherry, dried fig, cedar and tobacco. It is best to eat with red meat or ham. 


10. Syrah 


chateau neuf du pape

This picture was taken in front of the Hotel Château des Fines Roches. The Château is located in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Syrah has two names: in the Old world it used to be called “syrah” (Europe) and in the new world “shiraz” (Australia). It originates from southeast France. It makes a structured, black fruit wine, often with black pepper, plumbs and currents notes. It is often a grape that gets blended. In the Northern Rhône, you will get a full Syrah, and in the South, it makes a GSM blend like the famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape which is made of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. According to Novel Wines (link here), while wines labelled Syrah tend to be more savoury, wines labelled Shiraz are spicier and jammier as they are often grown in. 


As we saw above, English people appreciate wine a lot but they all have their favorite grape variety. For all of those who wish to adopt vines of Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir in France, this is your moment. Thanks to Cuvée Privée, you can now discover all the secrets of each grape variety and meet the winemaker who grows it and taste the cuvée he produces! 


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