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Wine guru David Biird admits that when Martin Millington of Wroxeter Roman vineyard was singing the praises of Rondo years ago he was very sceptical but had since changed his mind. “Rondo”, he said, “can be black and raw, but I have recently tasted some elegant examples where the correct use of oak has resulted in very fine wine”.
One always has to say “weather permitting” when talking about English wines particularly reds. But with global warming it could be in our favour as the admirable Halfpenny Green vineyard in Shropshire proved when unexpectedly sunny weather in the Midlands in September 2011 produced a Rondo with a natural alcoholic content of 15%. Some 7,000 bottles flew off the shelves when that was announced.
Rondo’s finest hour was in 2011 when Denbies of Dorking won a gold medal for a wine made entirely from Rondo at the International Wine Challenge. True it was for a rosé not a red but remarkable nonetheless. Further south John Boyd’s small vineyard at Upton Bishop in Herefordshire won a silver medal for its red in the South West Vineyards’ competition and also carried off the Sunnybank Trophy for the best red from a commercial vineyard. If you were to plot a graph of the quality of English reds over the past 10 years it would show a slowly improving trend. This is thanks to three factors which are still continuing: greater technical ability, experimenting with more suitable varieties and, vitally important, an improving climate. Good English red is bound to be a niche product, at least in the short term, but it is increasingly looking like a surprisingly interesting niche