English Sparkling Wine, Magical Blends & Harvest Secrets with Janina Doyle



What’s it really like to work at a winery during the harvest? What is the magic behind blended wines versus single grape or varietal wines? How does English sparkling wine compare to Champagne?

In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Janina Doyle, sommelier and host of the Eat Sleep Wine Repeat podcast.

You can find the wines we discussed here.


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  • What’s it really like to work at a Chilean winery during the harvest?
  • Why does Janina find it so fascinating to participate in the winemaking process?
  • How did Janina nearly lose an eye while in a winery experimentation room?
  • What hidden danger lies in bottles of bubbly?
  • What’s it like to blend Malbec wines in Argentina?
  • What makes Bodega Catena Zapata a must-visit winery for every wine lover?
  • What made Janina’s trip with her father to Rioja, Spain one of her most memorable wine experiences?
  • Which experiences should you try when visiting Rioja?
  • Why did Janina’s first trade wine tasting end in disaster?
  • What’s the difference between English and British wine?
  • What do you need to know about English wine?
  • Which English wine does Janina recommend for you to try if you’re new to the category?
  • How does English sparkling wine compare to Champagne?
  • What sort of tasting profile would you experience with Bacchus grapes?
  • What is the “Nyetimber Effect”?



Key Takeaways

  • I enjoyed Janina’s stories about what it’s really like to work at a winery during the harvest. As she mentioned, many people think winemaking is so glamorous and they have no idea how dirty it is and how many accidents happen and how hard it is. I call it fancied up farming.
  • She made some great points about blended wines, including the fact that Malbec, though it’s a single variety, is often a blended wine.
  • Janina shared some great insights into the differences and similarities between English sparkling wine and Champagne. I was surprised to hear that the English wine industry has grown by 70% in the last five years.

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About Janina Doyle

Janina Doyle started her wine career in several top-notch restaurants in London, UK, rising from waitress to head sommelier as she completed her WSET diploma. She has spent the last six years creating Eat Sleep Wine Repeat where she offers wine tastings, events and services. She also created the Bromley Wine Society, a local monthly wine group, and her podcast, Eat Sleep Wine Repeat. She is also Brand Ambassador for Ventisquero Wine Estates in Chile.



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Janina Doyle 0:00
If you’ve never tried English wine, the best to try would be sparkling. Our sparkling wine is actually the closest thing you’re gonna find to Champagne and not like it’s a mimic. When there has been blind tasting competitions, English wine has very often won. About 70% of English wine production is sparkling wine. And the varieties grown in England are the three Champagne varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

Natalie MacLean 0:25
What is it that your wine regions share with Champagne?

Janina Doyle 0:28
It’s the soils. The Paris basin is free draining; it’s typically chalk, limestone and clay. It gives you that minerality and beautiful acidity. That same soil type is what we have in England, certainly in the southern part of England.

Natalie MacLean 0:45
Your white cliffs of Dover. Is that chalk or limestone?

Janina Doyle 0:49
It’s chalk. Dover is in Kent and actually the most wineries or certainly the top wineries

Natalie MacLean 1:01
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine? Do you love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places and amusingly awkward social situations? Well that’s the blend here on the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie Maclean and each week, I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please and let’s get started.

Welcome to Episode 170. What’s it really like to work at a winery during a harvest? What is the magic behind blended wines versus single grape or varietal wines? And how does English sparkling wine compare to Champagne? We’ll hear those stories and more during our chat with Janina Doyle who hosts her own podcast EAT SLEEP WINE REPEAT. One of you will win a one hour online masterclass with Janina tailored to you and which ones you have access to, and what you want to learn about. You can have the class just for yourself or gather a whole group together. All you have to do is email me at Natalie at Nataliemaclean.com and tell me that you heard about this giveaway on the podcast, and then I’ll select someone randomly from those who email me. As well if you’re listening to this episode on or before March 12 I’d like to invite you to an outrageously fun online Drink and Drag wine party unlike any other tasting you’ve ever attended. Oh yes. Join Queenston winemaker Rob Power and me Saturday March 12 at 7pm Eastern. This entertaining over the top virtual event will feature the Queens of Queenston Mile Vineyard, Katinka Kature and Carlotta Carlisle. Get your groove on with wine in hand. Enjoy the Queen’s on the online mainstage sporting their favourite wines, bodacious bods, over the top makeup and glamorous wigs, dancing to their favourite songs. End the evening in the online session lounge featuring local music and a fun Q&A with Rob, Katinka, Carlotta, and yours truly. We’ll be tasting a number of really spectacular wines during this event. And they can be shipped to your door anywhere in Canada, including Quebec. And yes, they’ll arrive in time if you order right now.

Natalie MacLean 3:37
Drink and Drag will be hosted online, your virtual event link will be emailed to you in advance of the event. I can’t wait to see you there. You can bet I’ll be wearing my favourite Fluevog shoes. I’ll put a link in the show notes so you can get your ticket before they sell out. Can’t make this date? Buy your ticket today and sip the wines as you watch a video replay.

Now on a personal note, before we dive into the show, with the continuing story of publishing my new wine memoir. Memoir is the bastard of literature according to Mary Karr, the celebrated author of The Memoirs, The Liar’s Club, Lit, and others. So why are we drawn to it? Well, it’s not the same as autobiography, although the two are often confused. Autobiography usually starts at the beginning of someone’s life; usually someone famous and continues to the current day, recounting major events and lessons learned over a lifetime. Memoir is just one slice of a person’s life, perhaps just one year, like my memoir. Usually there’s an inciting incident that sets the author off on a series of adventures or mishaps. The story is about overcoming obstacles, real life villains, self doubt and high stakes, like potentially losing your career, livelihood, marriage and mind. Yep, I checked all those boxes.

Memoir is not usually about someone famous, as is the case with me. Instead, the author is a stand in for readers who go through a relatable emotional journey as though they are the stories’ hero. Readers get a voyeuristic look into an author’s private life and thoughts. And then can ask themselves the same questions that the author is pondering about;  how they would handle life in tough circumstances. The author is more vulnerable and transparent than most readers would ever be comfortable with. So there’s also a satisfying feeling to think about how they’d react in similar situations or recall past experiences in their own lives and reflect. It also gives readers an excuse to talk about these issues or situations with friends and family without having to make it too personal or too revealing. And isn’t that what book clubs are all about? I call my memoir, my book baby, because it’s still a work in progress and I feel very overprotective of it. But it’s no bastard, I can assure you. This book has its roots deep in its parents, not just me, but all those who are helping to raise it right now, especially my beloved beta readers. It takes a village to raise a child; it takes an army to publish a book.

In the show notes at Nataliemaclean.com/170 you’ll find a link to a blog post called Diary of a Book Launch, where I share more behind the scenes stories about the journey of taking this memoir from idea to publication. If you want a more intimate insider seat beside me on this journey, please let me know that you’d like to become a beta reader and get a sneak peek at this manuscript, email me at Natalie at Nataliemaclean.com. In the show notes at Nataliemaclean.com/170 you’ll find my email contact, a link to the post Diary of a Book Launch a link to the Drink and Drag event,  a full transcript of my conversation with Janina, links to her website and podcast, how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class and where you can find the live stream video version of these conversations on Facebook and YouTube live every Wednesday at 7pm. Okay, on with the show!

Natalie MacLean 7:28
Janina Doyle started her wine career in several top notch restaurants in London, UK, rising from a waitress to head sommelier. She completed her WSET diploma at the same time. And she has spent the last six years creating a website called EAT SLEEP WINE REPEAT where she offers wine tastings, events, and services. She also created the Bromley Wine Society, a local monthly tasting group, and her podcast which is fabulous, called EAT SLEEP WINE REPEAT. She’s also the brand ambassador for a Chilean wine we’ll hear about as we chat. Welcome to the podcast Janina, how are you?

Janina Doyle 8:10
I’m good. Thank you. That was really difficult not to talk during that, you know, I’m ready. I’m ready. So

Natalie MacLean 8:17
As a podcaster usually the mic and the control is in your hands, but not today. But I know you’re going to share with us some great storiesJanina,

Janina Doyle 8:25
I’ll try and behave. I’ll try and behave.

Natalie MacLean 8:28
That’s all we could ask. Alright, let’s start with some of your more personal stories about wine. What happened when you worked the harvest in Chile? Tell us about the winery and why you were there. What happened?

Janina Doyle 8:42
Oh, it’s amazing. So actually, it’s the best harvest I’ve done and thankfully they had to do it because the winery I worked for. So at one point, they had to fly me out so I could help but it was fantastic. It’s one of these things I think many people think winemaking is so glamorous, right? You know so wouldn’t everyone love to be a winemaker and they have no idea how dirty it is and how many accidents happen and how hard it is. You know I always say to people, go and pick grapes for more than an hour. It’s all fun taking some scissors and you know doing a little clip here in the vineyard. But your back is broken after an hour and that’s even on flatland, let alone steep slopes. It is great though to really see what it’s like in a vineyard, so did all that out in the vineyards, punching down, so that’s taking devices to push the skins down, submerge it into the juice whilst the wine is fermenting, process to get more colour and tannin and extraction, so that’s a great gym exercise everybody. If you don’t like the gym, it’s amazing. Pushing down the cap like “Go for it”. Your arms will be steel by the end of harvest.

Natalie MacLean 9:47
I always say abs of stainless steel, like it’s a real physical workout; even carrying the big hoses around the winery.

Janina Doyle 9:54
That’s such a good point; abs of  stainless. So I did in 2018; not this year unfortunately. But, yeah, I think what I was saying;  obviously all went to plan, had a wonderful time, learned a lot about lees stirring. So  doing the batonnage, we say the French term, adding creaminess to the wine and texture, wonderful, wonderful time.

Natalie MacLean 10:13
And the lees, just for those who don’t know, the lees are the spent yeast cells that kind of particulate, whatever, out of the wine. So stirring them up, as you say, adds that sort of creamy, yeasty, bready taste to the wine.

Janina Doyle 10:24
And it’s good fun, just sticking something into a barrel and stirring it around. But actually, you think it might be like a spoon,  but what’s often used, I was so surprised when I went there, it’s this metal device, it almost looks like what you would find if you were mowing the lawn, you know, one of these sharp blades, and then it comes out, you put it into the hole of the barrel and then it opens up, and then you can kind of spin it around. So it’s a very interesting little device. So definitely anyone who can get to a winery, go and see what there is, there’s so much more to winemaking than I think everyone has a clue. But probably the most exciting and interesting story of being in that winery was when I nearly died. I mean, that’s an exaggeration.

Natalie MacLean 11:04
I like drama; continue.

Janina Doyle 11:06
I am a bit of a drama queen; I did nearly lose an eye. So what you’ll find in many  wineries is that they have an experimental part of the winery; so huge tanks for everything else, and then if you can imagine like a water cooler bottle, so like a 15 litre small water cooler bottle, we use a lot of them to take you know, we have like these little nursery samples for many years before a wine actually goes live. Often you make this wine for years upon years to see how it ages. So I was playing around in this experimental part of the winery where we start little fermentations in these little 15 litre bottles. Anyway, and so put some dry ice in, assume the fermentation is happening; I don’t know what exactly was going on in that bottle. But I’m moving all the bottles into the fridge and everything’s fine until I pick one up. It’s super close because it’s really big, you know, so it’s right by my face and the cork just popped into my eye and the distance. So obviously, straightaway, the drama queen that I am, I’m like, I’m blind, I’m blind. Everybody stopped what they’re doing. I’m blind. It did turn out. I actually didn’t even have a bruise. I had no war wounds afterwards. But it goes to show.

Natalie MacLean 12:20
Yeah, no, you can get blinded by a flying cork, even a champagne cork, but in your case one that’s holding fermentation down.

Janina Doyle 12:26
Well, apparently champagne corks, on average, a dozen people a year die from Champagne corks, so everybody

Natalie MacLean 12:33
Oh my goodness, let along go blind. Oh my gosh,

Janina Doyle 12:36
Yes; die because it hits you in the right place. So everyone with that cage, keep the cage on. Don’t take the cage off. Unless you don’t like the person and you’re happy with consequence.

Natalie MacLean 12:50
It gives Lethal Weapon, kind of James Bond notions. Just remove the cage, Mister Bond.

Janina Doyle 12:56
Absolutely. At least it will just be manslaughter. Well, that’s what you can claim anyway. So that is the reason for the cage. There’s like six bars of pressure in that bottle. So anyway, yes, so everyone, be aware of corks.

Natalie MacLean 13:09
Wow. That’s a nice, dramatic start.

Susie Barrie 13:12
Thank you. A little bit. Yeah.

Natalie MacLean 13:15
So let’s move on to another winery experience that you had you also blended Malbec wines in Argentina. Where were you? And what was that like?

Janina Doyle 13:24
Oh, it was amazing. So I highly recommend anybody who likes Malbec go and check out the wines of Catena Zapata if you haven’t. In fact, Nicolas Catena,who is the father that kind of started at all really; he is the high altitude pioneer of Malbec and what we now know Argentina for, so anyway, it’s an amazing winery. Everyone needs to go and check it out

Natalie MacLean 13:49
And architecturally I’ve been there too, you know, you know, it looks sort of like Aztec or something.

Janina Doyle 13:54
It is very “Aztecy”. Yeah. So during my time as a sommelier, I was able to go and they have like a Catena camp it’s called. Very cool. And you can learn to blend Malbec. So very often people think a wine, if it says Malbec on the bottle, it’s a single variety. Well, it is single variety, but it’s actually a blended wine most often. So most winemakers will have different plots of, in this circumstance Malbec, and then they’ll mix them together. So when you see single vineyard on a bottle, okay, yes, it came from one specific place probably because that site is just amazing. But a winemaker can have a lot of fun blending, bringing different components together. So it was so nice considering Malbec is such a well known variety. Everyone’s very comfortable with it. But you can actually see the nuances of Malbecs planted on chalky soils or gravel soils, whatever it is, you can find more floral notes, the tannins might actually be more structured, it might be more chocolatey. So we tried all these specific site Malbecs for their standard Catena Malbec wine that they would blend. He didn’t tell us what he would blend. And then he says, You broke down your notes. You’ve decided what tastes like what, what would you blend back in? So you know, I did mine the dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. And at the end, they take a 100 millilitre cylinder, they can measure out your percentages, and they make your blend and you taste it with a winemaker. And then he says, Oh, well, yeah, that was quite good. But do you think it’s lacking perhaps some acidity? So I would have got the acidity from this Malbec plot, or actually, I quite like the nuances of this more fruit driven stuff, you know, and it’s just so interesting to have your eyes open to the blending process and how actually complex and complicated it is to well, as the winemaker would say, get right, you know, his vision. So that’s always stuck in my mind as one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had in a winery.

Natalie MacLean 15:58
That’s fascinating to see all the components that go into blending. Blending is very much a highly trained skill. And sometimes we take it for granted. But that’d be interesting, because I did the same with some New Zealand wines. And I found like, you know, even high altitude there meant, of course, more acidity, because you’re cooler nights and so on. So it is interesting to see the difference that altitude makes in the separate components and to understand the wine better that way.

Janina Doyle 16:26
Yeah. I’m now a Malbec expert.

Natalie MacLean 16:30
Of course, of course. Now, let’s fly over to Rioja Spain. You took your father there, tell us about that trip.

Janina Doyle 16:38
Oh, I love my dad, apart from the fact that Rioja is an amazing region to go to. It’s beautiful. You know, you’ve got the Cantabria mountains in the background and quite a lot of little hills here and there with lovely little village towns on top. But again, as a sommelier, it was so amazing. I went to go and visit lots of different wineries that I was selling their wine. So of course when you work, there’s nothing better than the experiences you get when you go to a winery when they love you already because you’ve been selling their wine. So we got treated like royalty, which was something my dad had never seen before. And specifically this one winery, which I loved, is Vivanco.

And what’s really good about this winery, they’re modern, family owned and so it’s been built in, we talked about Catena Zapata being beautiful, coming into Vivanco, you’ll love it. And then there’s this like restaurant attached to it, which gives kind of like, I don’t know if it’s 180 degree views or maybe 360, I can’t quite remember but you look out onto the vineyard as you’re eating and drinking. And they have these tastings, which again, we talked about, like blending. Many people don’t know that Rioja is typically a blend of different varieties. And so Tempranillo is the main grape variety, and sometimes it’s 100%. But very often there is Garnacha, which is Grenache in France, and Mazuelo, which is Carignan or Cariñena. The wonderful wine, well, it’s giving you a million names. And then there’s Graciano. So there’s these four main varieties that are typically blended in Rioja, and they actually do specific single varietal wines. So it’s so good already to have the opportunity to really find out your favourite is and really get to know the single varieties. That’s wonderful experience there.

And then also they have the best wine Museum. I’d like to say in the world, not that I’ve been to so many wine museums of the world, but many people say it, because the collection is superb. And they’ve even got, I’ll always remember, like almost a scratch and sniff area. So anyone who wants to do more tasting and you need to identify aromas and flavours in wine, you scratch away. In fact, it’s like being in the airport, you know, you get the little sticks, you spray the perfume, so you can rub the little sticks. And I even remember going away, that I had them all in my pocket, and I’d written what they were and sniffing away. People probably thought was a little weird, but it’s  just beautiful memories there. And my dad, literally, my God, started drinking from I think 10am, and I was driving, I was the sensible one, doing the spitting and I was the chauffeur and my dad literally drunk from morning to evening. It was probably I think the best experience in his life. It was like a literally a child in a sweetie store, but yet an adult with wine, and he literally came home, a middle class man, actually quite sophisticated and he calls it with genuine intention, Rioja Land. And I said to him one time you do know it’s not Disneyland and you do know it’s called Rioja. And he’s like, Yeah, Rioja Land, and he has had conversations with other adults where he says, oh my god, so I went to Rioja Land and it just comes out of his mouth and it is absolutely precious. So possibly the best memory because wine and family or beautiful friends is the best mix isn’t it? (English people generally pronounce Rioja like Ree-occa)

Natalie MacLean 19:51
Yeah, especially the emotions and seeing his joy I’m sure. Before we leave that, I’m just curious about this museum; so they had the scratch and sniff area and then was most of the rest of the museum just like a library of wines, or were there other display type things? What would people see at that museum?

Janina Doyle 20:07
You’ve all you know, things like basket presses. So basically imagine going back in history, whether it be amphoras,

Natalie MacLean 20:15
The clay vessels, yes, yeah.

Janina Doyle 20:17
Mm hmm. So amphoras, whether it be these old basket presses to obviously press the juice out of the grapes, the old way, where you have to literally turn the handle and it slowly squishes. So basically, lots of artefacts. And of course, there’s the interactive for memory. This is going back now, seven or eight years, but the televisions, as well, telling you the stories until you can learn but yet, it’s not just library collections of wine or anything like that. We’re talking wonderful artefacts and wonderful things of history, as well as the more learn about wine currently and now. So yeah, there’s so much to see there. And it’s across two floors, I believe. And yes, and as I said, it’s not just my opinion, apparently, there’s more stuff there than like any other wine museum in the world. So get yourself down to Rioja Land.

Natalie MacLean 21:13
Yes, I just keep thinking of my son at Lego Land. He was just in heaven. I don’t think he’d like Rioja Land as much.

Janina Doyle 21:20
No, but you would

Natalie MacLean 21:22
I guess I would; it would be better than Lego Land for sure. Alright, so tell us about your first wine industry trade event tasting?

Janina Doyle 21:34
Oh, I don’t want to.

Natalie MacLean 21:37
I’m going to make you.

Janina Doyle 21:40
It’s a very important story. I do tell this story, sometimes because wine is fun and wine is not snobby. And I think sometimes as a wine professional, and I’ve been in the industry now for, I don’t know, maybe 15 years; also, just because you’re in the wine industry, it doesn’t mean that you forget what it’s like to have no idea about wine, or not being able to  describe wine. You know, I remember being at the beginning, and I always want people to not feel intimidated when starting their wine journey. And so genuinely, funnily enough, it goes back to my  dad, again, it was his birthday. It was my first trade, wine tasting, and it was his birthday. And I said, Dad, I’m going to come and visit you for your birthday, I’m just going to go to this wine tasting for a few hours. So I get there at 10 o’clock, with all intentions to leave just around lunchtime and go and see my dad. That does not happen.

So what happened was, if anyone has ever been to a trade tasting, they will pour you little samples, little small wine. And you know, I’m there with a book and I’m taking notes very, very serious. What I did not realise is the importance of spitting. And I think for many people who are getting into wine, they say I can’t taste it unless I swallow it. And that’s not true. It’s just that you’re not used to all the flavours come from the mouth and not from the throat. But it’s something you just have to practice over time. So I promise everyone, you can do it. But I’m there, I’m swallowing everything, thinking it was fine, because it’s literally a small amount. Little did I know that 60 samples later, and when I say that it is because I checked the book the next day, and some of them were just squiggles. Plus, I’ve gone back to the same places bringing some other wine colleagues over so we have no idea how much I consumed. But at five o’clock in the evening, I’ve missed my dad’s lunch, I was absolutely plastered, I didn’t even know I was plastered because I hadn’t tried to get drunk. I didn’t even know. And I didn’t know they were packing away. So apparently, you know, boxes were being moved. Most people had left. I guess everyone was too scared to talk to the drunk girl and tell her to leave. And I found myself flat on my face where I’d like tripped up over boxes because I didn’t even see them. And basically, I did get to my dad’s birthday in the evening. So I just want everyone to know I got there. I had to ask him to pick me up and bring a big bottle of water. And I didn’t drink any wine that evening with them. But it took me a long time to live down. And it was certainly an experience. I wouldn’t advise it for anyone but it happens.

Natalie MacLean 24:15
And that is the difference. That transition you need to learn from loving wine personally or as a hobby and being a professional. That spitting thing. People think it’s gross or unsanitary, but it’s absolutely necessary. And those Industry Trade events, trade being like people who work in the trade like sommeliers or restaurants or media or people who import wines, these big tastings, if you’re not spitting, it can really creep up on you. It is kind of like the you know, Frog in the boiling water, whatever. You just don’t realise it, because it’s little tiny sips at a time, but they do add up.

Janina Doyle 24:49
They did then yeah. So are we finished with that story?

Natalie MacLean 24:53
Thank you for being so open and sharing that with us because I’m sure all of us have been there. I know I have and I’m sure it happens. Those listening have been there too. Alright, let’s turn to English wines. I always get mixed up on this because I think English wines, well, oh wines have an English label; why do they call them English wines as opposed to British wines? Maybe you can sort out that really beginner kind of perception for us first.

Janina Doyle 25:18
Okay, well, first of all, England wines have to come from England. And we actually have Welsh wines, which are labeled Welsh, but when we talk about that, literally, 1.5% of the production of Great Britain is in Wales. So it’s really small, but there’s some premium, premium, top wineries there. There’s also like 0.5% comes from the Channel Islands, and Scotland. So basically, everything comes from England. But if it says British, it can actually be grapes that have come from somewhere else, and then they just make it in England. So that’s actually why you won’t find the majority of the wine saying British wine. There will be some around I’m sure. But yes, so English wine comes from England, not any of the other parts of the UK, and it is grown in England and made in England

Natalie MacLean 26:12
That’s kind of similar to cellared in Canada can mean grapes from elsewhere, maybe Canada, but Canadian VQA, Vintners Quality Alliance, says these grapes are grown in Canada. So an interesting parallel there, but yeah, okay. So tell us about English wines in terms of. “Its yummy“(Janina interjection), Okay, good. Starting off technically, yes.

Janina Doyle 26:34
Yes, sorry. Do I have to be technical? Yeah. Oh,

Natalie MacLean 26:36
No, please don’t.

Janina Doyle 26:38
Good, delicious, amazing. It’s growing massively, I mean, we have grown by 70% in the last five years. The best harvest we’ve had because the weather was superb in 2018 for quality and for yield, we managed to do about 13 million bottles. So it’s still small, but their plan is to be doing 40 million bottles by 2040. But we’re so in growth now, we’re so in growth. Now it continues, that is getting mad. Certainly for everybody listening, if you’ve never tried English wine, the best to try would be sparkling. Because if you like Champagne, our sparkling wine is actually the closest thing you’re going to find to Champagne and not like it’s a mimic. At the end of the day, when there has been blind tasting competitions, where they are putting Champagne, well  sparkling wine to the world, English wine has very often many times won. So it’s something that we do really well. About 70% of well, I’m going to say English wine that will cover Welsh, why but 70% of wine is sparkling wine. And pretty much 70-75% of the varieties grown in England are the three champagne varieties. So Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. So I have a bottle today though. But it’s not sparkling. It’s actually a still wine because I just wanted to throw in a curveball for everyone. But I do recommend sparkling.

Natalie MacLean 28:06
Sure, sure sure. And what is it that your wine regions share with Champagne in terms of soil climate, etc? And how are they different?

Janina Doyle 28:14
Okay, so it’s the soils, the soils basically. So the Paris basin, a lot of people talk about, they say, what’s the Paris basin? It’s kind of a type of bedrock that’s around Paris, so makes sense, quite low lying. And it’s this type of rocks that allow a lot of water through so free draining, which is fantastic. And then on the surface, depending on where it is, it’s typically chalk, limestone and like a little bit of clay.

Basically, this is what you find in Chablis. This is what you find in Champagne. And obviously, for the purposes of this conversation, Champagne, it’s why it’s so amazing. It gives you that minerality and beautiful acidity. That same soil type is what we have in England, certainly in the southern part of England. And actually, it’s kind of like the 70% rule, give or take, it seems everything I’m saying is around the 70%. But 70% of all the wine that gets made is in the southeast and kind of going along towards the southwest. So in regions such as Kent, the county of Kent, Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire, they’re kind of the counties, if anyone wants to get a bit wine geeky, where you’re going to find the most wine. So the similarities is the soil. In fact, Hambledon winery has literally one of their sites, which they’ve done, like the digging and the soil, terroir checks. It’s exactly, exactly the top soil and the bedrock is exactly the same as the Grand Cru sites in Côte des Blancs in Champagne, the really chalky soils. And we have a lot of that, we have all these different pockets of basically Champagne soil.

Natalie MacLean 29:48
And isn’t that what the White Cliffs of Dover, is that chalk or limestone?

Janina Doyle 29:52
It’s all chalk, its all chalk. Dover is in Kent. And actually the most wineries or certainly the top wineries. Kent is an amazing place and I live in Kent. So I’m actually quite lucky. It’s almost like it was destined, it was meant to be. I’m on the outskirts of London going into Kent. So I’ve got I’ve got the best of both worlds. So it’s wonderful. The things that are not the same is probably just the climate slightly. So I remember many years ago, a winemaker telling me, an English winemaker, that basically we’re about 0.5 (nought point 5) degrees cooler in England than Champagne. But as you know, global warming is actually kind of working in our favour. So whereas we’re now like coming into our own, it’s like everybody, English sparkling wine, Champagne are actually slightly worried now that they’re going to get too ripe. And for anybody who doesn’t know so much about what kind of grapes you want for traditional method sparkling wine, you want grapes that are actually high in acidity. You don’t want something that’s powerful in flavour and concentrated and ripe because that’s too much. That’s what you want for a still wine, not for a sparkling, so you know, our climate right now is pretty good, spot on for a sparkling.

Natalie MacLean 31:04
Is there growth in Scottish wines, wines made in Scotland, because of climate change, or is it still really tiny?

Janina Doyle 31:11
It’s tiny, it’s tiny. I did some research a little while back. And apparently there are four registered wineries in Scotland. However, really typically, they’re making a lot of fruit wines. So they’re using very well it blackberries, raspberries, whatever, apples rather than wine, but there is grapes up there. But they typically, kind of a bit like England anyway, they’re planting grapes that are lots of like hybrid grapes, or German varieties that can handle the cold and not going to go as mouldy. And so a red grape variety called Rondo, which is a hybrid grape that has darker skin so it can give quite a bit of colour, which is something that we’re not very good at in England, you know, we’re not a specialist in red grapes.

Because of course, cooler climate, typically the whites do much better than reds. That’s why Rondo can be quite good. And Solaris, which is a beautiful variety, actually, which is very tropical, lots of kind of pineapple and bananas and maybe nuts. It’s a lovely variety that you’ll find in kind of a little bit in Scotland, a bit England, and you’re going to find it in the places like Netherlands and Poland and the top of Germany. It is a white wine grape. That is up in Scotland. But I have never tasted a Scottish wine. I don’t know how good they would be because of course, the best wines do tend to be in the south. But they’re saying something, I can’t remember who predicted this, they said something by like 2080 we will be growing Malbec in the north of England. So that’s what they’re saying; I hope they’re wrong.

Natalie MacLean 32:42
That’s a lot of climate change to require that warmth for Malbec, Argentina’s traditional, wow., What you’re saying reminds me a lot of Canada. So our best wine regions are in the southern tip of like Ontario, also BC, the tip of the Sonoran desert out there. And then the other provinces tend to plant more hybrids or German varieties. Or in some of the prairie provinces, Newfoundland, it’s fruit wine, that’s not grape based. So lots of parallels here between Canada and England. It’s interesting

Janina Doyle 33:14
Well when I suppose when we talk about the latitudes, at the end of the day, when people look on a map, you’re gonna see we’re up there in the north, and generally, most wineries are going to be planted between 28 and 50 degrees. And there’s a reason for that. It’s the climate. It’s when you start going too far north and too far south, it gets too cold. And that’s what we struggle with Canada and England right?

Natalie MacLean 33:37
Exactly we are shivering sisters. You mentioned another grape in some of your notes to me, Abacus or Bacchus. Tell us about that grape.

Janina Doyle 33:48
Okay, Bacchus. That is the grape variety of England if we’re talking about still wines. And I don’t know if people have heard, and I’m sorry if this is going to be the first time, everyone take a seat, if you love Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, but there’s going to be a shortage. There is a shortage already, like many people have already got their allocation and so there is not enough Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc wine. Now the reason that’s so popular, it’s quite pungent wine, it’s very zesty and citrusy, lovely,  fresh acidity. Bacchus is like England’s version of that. So it’s the closest parallel I can draw but what I always say to people, Bacchus, if you can imagine, it’s almost like Sauvignon Blanc had a love child with Riesling and Albarino. So Albarino being the grape variety from Galicia in Spain. For anyone who hasn’t tried that, and if you haven’t, do. So, it’s got beautiful acidity, it’s got loads of aromatics, it’s got richness and roundness, and it’s a great variety they’re still really playing around with. So they’re making orange versions, they’ve started making some sparkling. It’s still actually in research territory, but it’s a beautiful wine if you like aromatics.

Natalie MacLean 35:06
Sounds fascinating. You call something the Nyetimber effect. What is that?

Janina Doyle 35:11
The Nyetimber effect; Nyetimber is a winery, it’s our most prestigious winery. Doesn’t mean it’s the best, but they’ve certainly placed themselves as quintessentially English. They basically started the revolution of English sparkling wine. And they have kept themselves very, actually very much like what you’d expect from Champagne. We have other wineries that might be bigger and bolder, and age their wines in oak and more powerful, but they’re very kind of linear, and chalky and pure. So it kind of goes with the quintessentially British kind of vibe. So they basically started planting vines in 1988.

Now there was vines before, but nobody was doing sparkling wine. They were doing like really taut, like, you know, I don’t know like, lose all your saliva kind of wines before that. They came along; it was an American couple funnily enough. So an American couple came along and everyone was telling them, no, the climate is not good enough. Just plant some apple trees. They did not listen. They got some people from Champagne, you know, got all the right presses or the champagne equipment, and they planted the three champagne varieties.

And basically, long story short, their first vintage was 1992. And it was the International Wine and Spirits competition that voted them the best English wine. And straightaway the Queen was on it and there was like, you know, okay, this is pretty good for the first vintage. The second vintage, the 1993. in the IWSC, so the International Wine Spirits Challenge or competition anyway, what it was called, they did a tasting with all the wines of the world and it won best sparkling wine of the world up against Champagne. And this is like in their second vintage. And obviously, they’ve won awards galore. They have inspired a whole load of investment and other wine makers and wineries to set up shop and copy basically because they realise the value of what we can do.

And in fact actually Sherry Springs who’s the female winemaker behind this right now, in 2018,  so recently, she won with the International Wine challenge best sparkling wine maker of the world. She was the first female to win this and the first person outside of Champagne. So the Nyetimber  effect is basically this kind of showcasing to England, I guess the world, look we can make really good sparkling wines and it has pushed and pushed and pushed where we are now. And so now we have like 178 wineries, there’s 800 Vineyards, just under 4000 hectares, and it’s just growing and growing and growing.

Natalie MacLean 37:53
Wow. So impressive.

Natalie MacLean 38:05
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed our chat with Janina. Here are my takeaways. Number one, I enjoyed Janina’s stories about what it’s really like to work at a winery during the harvest. As she mentioned, many people think winemaking is so glamorous, and they have no idea how dirty it is or how many accidents happen or just how hard it is. Actually call it fancied up farming but it’s still farming

Two: She made some great points about blended wines, including the fact that Malbec though it’s a single variety is often a blended wine.

And three; Janina shared some great insights into the differences and similarities between English sparkling wine and Champagne. I was surprised to hear that the English wine industry has grown by 70% in the last five years.

In the shownotes at Nataliemaclean.com/170 you’ll find my email contact,  a link to the post Diary of a Book Launch, the link to the Drink and Drag event, the full transcript of my conversation with Janina, links to her website and podcast,  how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class and where you can find the live stream video version of these conversations on Facebook and YouTube Live every Wednesday at 7pm. Email me if you have a sip tip question or if you want to be a beta reader of my new memoir at Natalie at Nataliemaclean.com. You won’t want to miss next week when we continue our chat with Janina. In the meantime, if you missed episode 117 go back and take a listen. I chat with Susie Barrie and Peter Richards, husband and wife team, who are both Masters of Wine, and based in the UK. We also chat about English wines and a lot of other topics. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.

Peter Richards 39:56
Wine shouldn’t be constrained in just pure wine senses, but like you do brilliantly, wine should be about food, it should be about art, it should be about architecture, and they can be enjoyed together.

Natalie MacLean 40:06
I agree with you completely. Bring people into wine through these other avenues which the two of you do. I think far more people are less intimidated with food like a chicken is a chicken. I’m not going to worry about vintage charts and where did the chicken grow up. And I think that is a way to make wine a little bit more relaxing and less uptight as a subject.

Susie Barrie 40:25
I think you’re right. And frankly, how often do any of us drink wine without food? It’s so much a part of drinking wine, isn’t it and sharing wine. You share it with food. So if people can understand food, then of course they can understand why you can’t understand every intricacy. But you can certainly understand that that tastes really nice with that. So that’s a starting point, isn’t it?

Natalie MacLean 40:54
If you liked this episode, please tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who be interested in the wines and stories we discussed. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week, perhaps a zesty English sparkling wine

Natalie MacLean 41:18
You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at Nataliemaclean.com/subscribe. Meet me here next week. Cheers