Think of fine wines and you’ll most likely imagine the châteaux of Bordeaux, the rolling hills of Tuscany or perhaps the valleys of New Zealand. However, in recent years the wine landscape has been changing in more ways than one, with English wines earning a reputation of their own.
At the forefront of this boom in homegrown wines is Norfolk, something that Jarrolds Wine Consultant and Sommelier Vernon Banham has witnessed firsthand. He points out that the county’s dry climate and good water retention in the soil make for an ideal terroir for vine-growing, but it’s far from being one-note. “Because we’re such a big county, the terroir is very changeable… The vineyards are all scattered around and they’re all benefiting from different soil types,” he explains. This means you have a great variety of wines to choose from – including fantastic sparkling options. Among Jarrolds’ extensive wine stocks, you’ll find wines from Flint, Chet Valley, Cobble Hill, Burn Valley and Humbleyard vineyards, among others.
One of the most significant grapes grown in Norfolk is Bacchus, and indeed it was this variety which won Lee Dyer of Winbirri Vineyard a Platinum Best in Show medal at the 2017 Decanter World Wine Awards. This full-flavoured white wine makes for a wonderful stand-alone drink, but for pairing with food Vernon suggests Solaris, which has a leaner, drier flavour. He regularly advises customers in store what varieties will pair best with their menu; however, he is keen to point out that there are no rules when it comes to palate. “You enjoy what you enjoy. Everyone’s taste buds are different – that’s why I stock so many wines!”
It’s not just wine on the rise in Norfolk. Survey Jarrolds’ shelves of spirits and you’ll find a large array of local producers on display. Gin may be one of the best-known regional exports, but there’s also whisky, vodka and rum to try – not to mention a whole range of local liqueurs. “There’s nothing off limits now,” says Vernon, “and they’re all good quality products, and world renowned.” One trend that he’s noticed in store is a growing interest in DIY cocktails. “Going out for cocktails now can be pretty expensive, but we have all the raw materials here to stock your own mini bar”, he points out.
As for Vernon’s own favourite tipple? With so many flavours to sample, it’s impossible to choose just one, but depth is key: “I don’t like anything one-dimensional; I like complex and rewarding flavours,” he says. “Life’s too short to drink inferior things.” That’s certainly something we can raise a toast to.
Visit Jarrolds to discover the vast selection of Norfolk wines and spirits on offer and be sure to make a stop at one of our Wine Bars in store
Out of the Ordinary
Try these unique flavours from Norfolk-based spirit producers, available at Jarrolds