Hello again….. SO SOON haha.
Well I mentioned in my Part 1, WINE GB, piece last Sunday about Robb Merchant who is the Chairman of the Welsh Vineyards Association and also owner of White Castle Vineyard whom I had met at the Wine GB event in London.
White Castle Vineyard is owned by Robb & Nicola Merchant, situated in the beautiful rolling countryside of Monmouthshire (WALES!) in the village of Llanvetherine close to the towns of Abergavenny and Monmouth.
Robb had worked for the Post Office in South Wales for a long time in a senior management role which was a pretty stressful life and he decided to get away from the rat race.
Robb & Nicola purchased the 12 acre small holding in 1995 which they then converted the milking parlour barn into their home. It was then 2008 before the dream of owning a vineyard became a reality, 5 acres of a gently sloping, south facing field was purchased adjacent to the property. Soil samples were tested to see if it was ok for vines and they had the thumbs up, so off they went and purchased the vines.
In May 2009 the first 4000 vines were planted. Pinot Noir Précoce, Regent, Rondo, Seyval Blanc & Phoenix varieties so now there certainly was no going back. In May 2010 they planted another 800 vines this time the variety was Siegerrebe.
So in early May one beautiful sunny Sunday morning I suggested to Mrs D that we should take a ride out in the car….. towards Abergavenny…. maybe call in to a vineyard… I have to say my wife is a super star and enjoys wine too….. although just about tolerates by obsession.
On to Google……. I know they are open. I intend to surprise Robb unannounced. Which I have to say he took extremely well as he was busy and had a tasting/tour an hour after we arrived. Sorry Robb. Proper Gentleman.
After a quick hello and introductions to our wives we decided to check out the 5 acre vineyard. Now I know to some people this will sound so small but the passion that Robb & Nicola put in is incredible. Their aim is to make boutique wines (and making them they definitely are) and because production is less than 10,000 bottles per year unfortunately most of their wines will go to the ever expanding top restaurants (including Michelin Star) in the area. Although there is nothing stopping you ordering the wines directly from their website. However there are plans for expansion of the vineyard…. watch this space.
So through the Grade 2 listed barn, dating back to 1581! Now been totally restored, as a tasting room, for tours, hire and events.
Over the beautiful river bridge, wow the water is so clear! I know it looks empty but it really is not. The water of these rivers and streams in Wales is incredible.
To the Vineyard where the vines are waking up from their winter sleep. 6th May 2018.
So after a walk around, seeing how the different vines (grape) varieties were at different stages of growth we went back to the tasting rooms to try WELSH WINE!
Now because of their size its not practical to have their own winery, so they use Three Choirs Vineyard for their winemaking which is only 25 miles away. https://www.three-choirs-vineyards.co.uk/gloucestershire .
That said Robb & Nicola decide the whole process of how they want the wines made.
Starting off with “GWIN GWYN” 2016 which is Welsh means WHITE WINE.
Grape Varieties: 60% Phoenix % 40% Siegerebe 11% ABV RRP £15.00
On the nose its predominantly Elderflower, then on the palate its a lime, gooseberries, and super fresh. Its a dry wine with a lovely zesty finish. Also right on the end of the finish I was getting sherbet (but not in a fizzy way!)
Next was the White Castle Brut sparkling wine:
Made from 100% Phoenix Grapes 12% ABV RRP £30.00. 1000 Btl Production
When poured this wine has super fine perlage, zesty fresh on the nose. On the palate it feels soft & delicate with elderflower & gooseberry notes classic of the Phoenix grape.
Next up was White Castle Regent.
100% Regent Grapes. 11.5% ABV. RRP.£18.50
This pours red with a violet edge and looks and smells super fresh. On the palate its fruit, fruit and then more fruit! Blackberry, Morello Cherry with a lovely smokiness too. Its so fresh and a would be a delight on a summers day with a BBQ or any time with a plate of charcuterie. This wine I think would also be lovely, slightly chilled down to 12-14c
RONDO was next.
100% RONDO grapes, 11.5% ABV RRP £17.50.
Again this red wine is bright cherry red in the glass, fresh berries on the nose with a touch of spice too. In the mouth its black fruit all the way, medium bodied not to heavy at all but dry on the palate finishing with a lightness of oak too. Spends 4 months in OAK.
Next to PINOT NOIR…. But not any old PN
100% Pinot Noir Précoce 2016, Known in Germany as Frühburgunder. This is a mutant of original PN which ripens earlier for cooler climate vineyards. 12% ABV RRP. £20.00
This for me really is their flagship wine. This wine spends 9 months on oak
25% No OAK, 25% New OAK, 25% + 25% in differently aged oak barrels. Then blended.
On the nose it has a much bigger and bolder feel than the Regent or Rondo. In the mouth its fresh but at the same time a great richness of cherries with blackberry touch too, vanilla, lightly spicy and subtle toasty notes too. So soft on the palate and so well balanced with tannins and acidity. (The PN Précoce is known for its lower tannin and acidity and it really shows) I liked this wine a lot. In fact Robb put me a case by please!
I actually had this wine last night, you can check my twitter feed. I was sat in the garden when my neighbour, knowing I like the odd glass of wine (really???) asked what I was drinking, Welsh wine I replied….
She laughed, yeah yeah, no really what are you drinking I told her I was deadly serious and she should try it. She tried the wine (well her face was an absolute picture.) and then put down the glass and picked up the bottle…. I cannot believe that this wine is from Wales, it really is WELSH WINE! its delicious so smooth full of fruit and well just…. delicious!. My reply was that its only 40 minutes away near Abergavenny and you can go and visit and get your own haha.
Last but not least….. DESSERT WINE yes really a dessert wine made in WALES.
1581 its called, due to the date of the old Croft Barn, it is made from 100% Regent grapes. This is delicious and should be drunk with a beautiful cheese, figs and dates platter. Only 500 Bottles made. I will be reviewing this later after a tasting with friends. I’m going to see who guesses where its from and what its made from…… NO ONE WILL HAVE A CLUE!
So overall are these wines any good?
Well I guess the proof is in the purchases. I bought all of the wines reviewed!.
Below are some great pictures Robb has sent me from the 2016 & 2017 harvests.
If you are in area please go and visit, there are lots of top restaurants near by also.
Follow Robb and Nicola on Twitter: @Welshwines for a year of their vineyard. But more importantly try their WINE!!!!
Also check out
For other vineyards in Wales, although the list is increasing all the time as I see https://www.montgomeryvineyard.com/ are not on the list yet.
Also check out https://www.winegb.co.uk/ for England and Wales Vineyards.
Also another great website is https://www.winecellardoor.co.uk/
Which is a great independent resource for the consumer find out more about locations and which Vineyards that are open to the public. They have great maps online.