The United Kingdom may not be the best known of the world's wine regions, but since the 1970s there have been dedicated viticulturalists and winemakers in England and Wales, producing high-quality wines and winning international competitions. Wine has been made in the UK since Imperial Roman occupation in the 1st century while the UK consumer market has been a significant factor in many historic global wine trends such as the growth of Bordeaux, Sherry and Port.
The latitude of the wine regions and cooler temperatures favor early ripening cool climate varieties. Growing conditions are moderated by the warming effects of the Gulf Stream current that carries warm waters east across the Atlantic Ocean.
The majority of wine produced is white with smaller amounts of rosé and red. Grape varieties growing in popularity include Triomphe d'Alsace, Dornfelder, Madeleine Angevine, Seyval Blanc, Schonburger and Müller-Thurgau.
Significantly the UK has fostered a reputation for sparkling wines in the méthod traditionelle style often from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The most successful wine regions of the UK are Cornwall, Kent and Sussex, in the south of England.
Along with English and Welsh designated wine, products with the term British Wine are also widely available, but very different. English and Welsh wines are legislated wine producing regions describing where the grapes are grown and vinified. British wines are commonly value products made from grape or fruit concentrate that can come from outside the UK, and do not meet the European Union's legal definition of 'wine'.
Although whisky ('whiskey' in Ireland and the USA) may well have come to Scotland from Ireland, Scotland's status as the world's most successful producer of single-malt whisky is unquestionable. Whisky has been officially produced in Scotland since 1823, although there is no doubt that unregulated whisky distilling was common for centuries before that date. See the 'Scotland' region page below for more information.
Similarly, beers produced in the United Kingdom may not reach the international market in such volumes as their European cousins, but brewing is regarded as a respected art form in every country within the UK. The range and quality of beers produced in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland demonstrate this fact, although there are no formal distinctions within UK regional beer production.