JWL Issue #054: What is bacchus?

May 28, 2019

It’s English Wine Week this week, and with it, comes the news that the number of vine plantings has increased 24% in the last year alone. That is an astronomical growth rate representing three million new vines in 2019.

Jamie Goode thinks the industry needs a levy-based official body to properly market these wines, else we may face problems of overproduction. I’m not so sure I agree. I think one of the biggest problems for the general consumer at the moment is with price. English Sparkling is expensive. English stills are expensive. At the moment, they’re really only for the serious enthusiast. If volumes increase, it could allow for smaller margins to become viable. Lower price points, will create new customers.

For anyone new who hasn’t yet got to grips with English Wine, have a listen to my introduction podcast on iTunes or Spotify.


Chalkdown Cider 2015 (£12.95) is a wonderfully expressive example. You get waves of apples - both fresh and cooked - on the palate, with an elegance you only get from this style. For those who haven’t tried a traditional-method cider yet, this is a great bet.

Tamesis (£19) is the first wine since Roman Times to be both grown and produced in London. Grown at Forty Hall and produced by Blackbook, this is an incredible display of bacchus. This has fresh minerality, a welcoming body, and a balanced aroma of elderflower, white pepper, and some stone fruits.

In the supermarkets this week, I tried Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Languedoc Red (£7.50). Once this had been open for a few hours, it found a really nice balance to it. It’s full of black cherries and pepper and a very decent, affordable red that’s widely available.


Bacchus is the second most planted white grape in the UK after chardonnay, and is fast emerging as our primary still white grape. It originates from Germany, as a cross between Silvaner, Riesling and Müller-Thurgau.

It’s an early ripener, which is important in cool climate regions where our growing seasons are shorter, less warm and have greater variability. In the UK, we are still at risk of frosts even into May, so grape selection is vitally important.

Bacchus is dominated by an elderflower aroma, but can also show stone and tropical fruits too. Winemakers have done lots to experiment with this and now produce it in a range of styles including sparkling, skin contact, amphora, and a very aromatic classic.

Bacchus has most commonly been referred to as our answer to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

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