Solaris: Our English white grape
The English wine category has largely developed based on the production of Champagne, with many producers leading sparkling-first, and planting the grapes commonly seen in Champagne production. Wines of Great Britain recently released a survey of all the grapes planted in England, and discovered that 31% of all plantings are Chardonnay at 1,228 hectares, Pinot Noir came in close second at 29% with 1,141 hectares and Pinot Meunier made up 9% with 343 hectares covered.
The remaining 31% included two of the grapes we use to create all three of our small-batch wines. Solaris is now planted across 95 hectares, and our red Rondo grape covers just 61 hectares. Back in 2015, Solaris covered a mere 25 hectares of land in the UK, but now it’s a rapidly growing grape of interest in the UK.
Solaris is a grape that was created in 1975 in Germany. Usually used for dry to sweet white wines, it’s resistant to frost and loves cooler climates like the UK. The grape was largely developed as a variety to withstand fungal diseases, like mildew, along with being able to navigate the challenges of growing in a cooler climate. It is technically a hybrid grape, and is found mainly in the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany. The Solaris grape has lush green, circular leaves and medium-sized clusters. It takes around 90 days to fully ripen, so will ripen earlier than other similar varieties.
Depending on the coolness of the climate, Solaris offers a wide range of aromas and flavours. In cooler regions, floral notes of elderflower can develop, and sweeter styles from warmer climates can reveal stone fruit and tropical notes, along with nutty flavours. Our Solaris vines soak up the warm sun and flourish in the rich, fertile Herefordshire soil. In our 2022 release, we’ve unearthed crisp and citrus honeydew melon notes. It’s a delicate and clean wine, that’s close to a fresh New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
It’s not a grape that’s widely known, but as the development of English wine continues, we’re beginning to see more experimentation with the different varieties of grapes that will thrive in a new growing wine region. There are still relatively few single grape releases of Solaris on the English wine market, and we’re especially proud of our Solaris 2022 Vintage, that’s been recently released. Made only in small batches, we think there’s huge potential for this grape in the UK.
With the growth of newer varieties being planted across the UK, we believe we’re moving now into the next chapter for English wine as we start to really explore what we can do with the soil in England and wine production. Whilst Chardonnay will continue to be a flourishing grape in the UK, with lots of promise for the sparkling wine to come, we’re excited to see where we can take our Solaris and Rondo grapes.