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Aug 3, 2012 01:01 AM

American wine in England.

Am over for the Olympics and based in the Sussex town of Bexhill on Sea. This is a blue collar and retirement area. Have not seen a wine shop but the local grocers seem to stock equal amounts of French claret and South African reds the only. The only American I have seen is Paul Mason and Barefoot. Beer and cider for me.

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  1. Hope you're enjoying the Olympics . . . Paul Mason, at one time, sold 1 million cases of 1.0L carafes (12 to a case) annually in the UK. Hope the dearth of California wine doesn't come as a surprise.

    1. If you get a chance to visit a Tesco, I think you will find several California wines on the shelves there.

      I spend 6-7 weeks a year in northern Scotland and you do see much more wine from Australia, Spain, Portugal, South Africa, Chile & Argentina for sale in Britain than you do in the U.S.

      8 Replies
      1. re: DavidT

        . . . and the wine from the US is RIDICULOUSLY priced! ;^)

        1. re: DavidT

          Le Fontegnac Claret, Les Jamelles Merlot, and a 2010 Vintage Claret selected by Tesco, were the wines brought by the guests to a fish and chips dinner last night. No whites at all. Lovely people but not really that sophisticated about the grapes. Did not expect many US bottles but it is fun to look at wine lists and shelves. London is a polite zoo. Went to my first soccer match and have tickets to a semi final one in a few days.

          1. re: budnball

            budnball, what does this mean?
            "London is a polite zoo"

            1. re: davidne1

              All the animals break for tea ...

              1. re: davidne1

                I mean it is way more crowded than I have seen it in 6 other visits but most everyone is patient and even tempered. Languages and accents from all over, guides at all tube stations to help the lost, cheerful Bobbies and professional soldiers and enthusiastic crowds at all events. I am exhausted and having a ball! Stopped at a wIne shop near Harrods and found a few Washington state reds and Roederer sparklers.

                1. re: budnball

                  We have been there for several labor union events, several demonstrations and several May Day disasters. I cannot imagine the Olympics. Our London friends have "gone to ground," and have left for elsewhere, until it is over. One couple, right on the Thames for many events, just left for the South of Spain, rather than fight it.

                  I just cannot imagine, and am glad that our board meetings do not coincide with the Olympics. I'd rather watch on TV, than fight the queues.


                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    I have to say that I will be glad to get home next week. Three weeks was one too many. Any talk of the a renaissance of British cooking is over reaching.
                    Would not have thought you a "red", Hunt. ;-)

                    1. re: budnball

                      Now, when in London, we usually do a fairly broad spectrum of dining. Indian, French, and then some various takes on British, with chefs like Gordon Ramsay, and restaurants (including several of his), like Wilton's and Butler's (The Chesterfield).

                      We just flat love to dine in London, and some IS "local."

                      As for the "events," while we are there, we do NOT participate, and try our very best to avoid, where possible. We just have set board meetings, and too many seem to coincide with "other events." Also, many see to focus on Hyde Park, which is below our balcony at the Hilton Park Lane. We just try to plan "around" what others are doing. Being a very conservative Republican, I do not indulge, even in protest.

                      Travel safely,


          2. Very few places will sell American wines in the UK. The problem is that the VAT is so intense it makes the cost of good wines prohibitive and only the bad wines (Gallo) affordable. (I was having this chat with a man at my local shop about this.)

            8 Replies
            1. re: Lizard

              . . . which is why I was able to "import" California wines form the UK and make a fortune here in California! ;^)

                1. re: pinotho

                  I'm not sure exactly what it is you want me to explain, but . . . .

                  California wineries love to export their wine. It's a big PR deal to say your wines are available in the UK, the EU, HK, etc., but being available isn't the same thing as actually being purchased. So while you can often find high-end Napa Valley "cult" Cabernets or Santa Rita Hills' Pinots at serious wine merchants in, say, London, Paris, and Berlin, they don't exactly fly off the shelves there.

                  I spent 35+ years in the wine trade, mostly here in California. For part of that time, I worked for a company that was a national wine importer and California wine wholesale company. Among the many other wines that we carried, we did a lot of grey marketing -- including the purchase of California "cult" wines from retailers in Europe who couldn't sell them; we'd bring them back to the US, and sell them to retailers in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and elsewhere in the state who *could* . . . .

                  1. re: zin1953

                    "I'm not sure exactly what it is you want me to explain, but . . . ." .

                    I had a bit of trouble understanding your post as well, Jason. At first I wondered how you could 'import' wines that couldn't be found in Europe, but your explanation took care of it. I think your tongue may have been just a little too deep in your cheek for some of us. ;o]

                    1. re: zin1953

                      thanks, I'm up to speed now.......

                      1. re: zin1953

                        Spoke to a salesman at Lea & Sandeman who said that very few regular customers were willing to take a chance on American wines and they are usually sold to expats and American tourists.

                        1. re: budnball

                          a) don't blame his regulars; b) silly tourists . . .

                          1. re: budnball

                            That *probably* comes from their exposure to US wines. Until very recently, most were "second label," or less, and were priced at about the level of a 5th growth Bdx. They were NOT good examples of US wines, but cost more than many good "foreign" wines. Not a happy picture.

                            I used to puzzle why so many in the UK had a very negative impression of US wines, until I began spending a lot of time in London. Then I understood quickly. They got dreck, and it cost a fortune, compared to really good wines from Europe.

                            I used to sneak US Zins into London, for my wife's board, and they were flabbergasted at how good they were. They had never tasted such, unless they had visited us in the US. They had never encountered such good US wines before.

                            Now, London is not cheap, at any level, but when one gets Woodbridge Cab at £ 120 per bottle, and they could have Ch. St. Pierre for £ 90, I could see the problem. Plonk at high prices, and none of the "good stuff."

                            As I mentioned, things ARE getting better, at least in higher-end London restaurants, though I usually head to the FR, IT or GR wines, when hosting there.


                  2. I saw an awful lot of respectable French reds at a Morrison's in the middle of nowhere last week.

                    Don't discount the French stuff -- pound for pound, it will be head and shoulders above any California wine you'll find on the same shelf.

                    We drank cask ales and ciders, because we CAN, and because French reds are our norm here at home.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: sunshine842

                      Yes, the selection of US wines in the UK are horrible, in general, and the prices do not reflect that low quality. I do find some of the same with wines from OZ, though maybe not at the same level. There are some great OZ wines, but I just do not see those in the UK (London mostly), but only plonk.


                    2. The dearth of US wines in the UK is, well deafening. There are few good examples, and what there are, are very highly-priced. Things HAVE gotten better in London, and especially Mayfair, but the UK is a great place to sample FR wines, at fair prices.