I travel a fair amount to make wine, and when I meet people while I'm away one of the first things I’m asked, usually with an incredulous look, is: does England make wine?
I’ll go through the motions of trying to convince them that, yes, England does make wine, that it has some of the same chalky sparkling wine terroir as Champagne, that it’s actually one of the fastest-growing wine regions in the world. Then they raise their eyebrows in an unconvinced way and walk away to talk to somebody else.
Imagine trying to convince them that England can produce fine red wine! Even I wasn’t completely convinced until yesterday - which is when I tried ‘Red Miller’ pinot meunier for the first time.
I can safely say this is the best English red wine I’ve ever tasted. Now that’s largely because I only tried four or five - a couple of juicy mouthwash wines made from German hybrid grape varieties and one pinot from Gusbourne which tasted lovely but had no backbone – but it’s still a bar-setter.
Red Miller is not an English red that you have to make excuses for. It’s not so tart that it makes your eyes twitch; it doesn’t it taste blandly confected, like the liquid equivalent of a packet of Chewits. Au contraire. This is a fully ripe and nuanced pinot meunier, soft but structured, with a gentle bite of acid and tannin. It is exceedingly enjoyable.
I don’t know what sorcery made it possible to produce an English red wine on a par with fine reds from the Loire, or northern Burgundy- it’s like seeing a boat up a tree, or a penguin reading the 6 o’clock news – but when it’s as enjoyable as this I’m not going to ask too many questions. Rather I will simply raise a glass to all freaks of nature and accept that whatever you think you know, there’ll always be a wine that turns your thinking on its head.
Perfect pairing: I'm eating a lot of Japanese food at the moment and I was exceedingly happy with this delicate steamed salmon pairing with the delicately lovely Red Miller. It’s basically salmon en papilotte. Stick a salmon fillet in a baking parchment parcel with fine strips of carrot, finely sliced spring onions and enoki mushrooms. Add pepper (no salt) and a generous nob of butter. Stick it in the oven for 15 minutes, then remove and drizzle over some ponzu (or soy with lime/lemon). Serve with sticky rice. It's a banker, I promise.