The Wines of Britain and Ireland: A Guide to the Vineyards of England and Ireland Paperback – 18 Jun 2001
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Top Customer Reviews
As Mr. Skelton says below, this book is the only widely available guide to this fascinating subject, by an author with a long and distinguished association with the English wine industry. The book contains a raft of detail about the history of vine growing in the UK, about the significant problems of site selection and pruning systems, and about suitable grape varieties for our marginal climate. On the practicalities of viticulture in the UK, Mr. Skelton has some intriguing opinions, and he makes no effort to conceal his prejudices: I was interested to read his rather dismissive comments about the Kerner variety (which made two of the three most delicious English wines I have tasted), and his praise (with more of an eye on the economics of the thing, I suspect) of the productive but dull Reichensteiner.
I feel this book could have done with some more rigorous pruning itself. Mr. Skelton has a chatty, slapdash style and tends to wander alarmingly off the subject, though it must be said that some of his asides do paint a vivid picture of a somewhat desperate enterprise: tales abound of overoptimistic spending, natural disasters, disappointment and bankruptcy. It is also unfortunate that the gazetteer, which makes up the bulk of this book, lists at least one vineyard which as far as I know has long since been grubbed up.
This well written reference gives clear information on the history of the vine in the British Isles, followed with a detailed discussion of varieties. Current vineyards are then listed with a wealth of up-to-date information aimed at both the wine tourist as well as those looking for more technical information on the vineyards and winemaking techniques.
When I bought this book, I expected it to be no more than a reference, dipped into from time to time. However, as soon as it arrived, I read the first half of the book (history of English vineyards - pre-roman to modern day) page by page (learning a huge amount, especially about Ray Barrington-Brock - a pioneer of modern day UK wine-growing). Stephens style of writing make enjoyable and easy reading of the whole subject.
Overall, an interesting and very informative book. I hope it generates even greater interest in the wines of the British Isles.