I have been looking forward to staying at the Rathfinny vineyard estate ever since I went to their launch, last April, of their Sussex Sparkling wine at the very glamorous venue of Somerset house in London. Here is my blog from last year. Rathfinny Launch
After a few emails back and forth to sort dates (I wanted to make sure Richard James – (my buddy from twitter) was there as I wanted the guided tour of the estate) I booked to stay for a long weekend, which I did two weeks ago.
The Estate, owned by Mark and Sarah driver, is in the Cradle Valley on the South Downs in the county of Sussex near to the village of Alfriston. The estate is only 3 miles from the sea, 17 miles from Brighton and about 60 ish miles from central London.
A 200 mile drive from home and with a pitstop in Brighton for lunch, we arrive in the very picturesque village of Alfriston, just the other side of the village is the entrance for the Rathfinny Estate.
Immediately, after turning off the road, what strikes you, is the sheer attention to detail across the whole estate.
The Rathfinny Logo welcomes you as you pull into the driveway, the logo is based upon the Sussex coat of arms, however the birds have been replaced by Grapes.
Up the drive way we began, within a hundred metres the road winds up the hill and you are surrounded by vines. Its about a mile until you reach the winery and tasting rooms but we were going to the end of the estate to stay at the Flint Barns.
On arrival you can only be impressed by these once derelict old barns that have been lovingly restored, using reclaimed and locally sourced materials.
We checked in, best check in ever… as it doubles as the bar too.
Alice and all of the Flint Barn team were brilliant and nothing was too much trouble even though It was a busy weekend for them with lots of people staying and eating there.
We were shown to our room, everything is of the highest quality with all the fixtures and fittings to a very high standard. Wetroom bathrooms are always a winner. There are no TVs in the rooms or the lounges, which I think is fabulous. This is a getaway and you really do not need a TV! Pets and even children!(haha) are welcomed too.
Dropped the bags in the room and headed back to the bar…. well it was way past wine o’clock, opting for a large glass, as would be drinking wine later with dinner and Rich was joining us after, of the estates only still wine, which I believe is unfortunately for the estate only. The wine is called Cradle valley, vintage 2017, its a blend of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris and is really delicious indeed. With glasses in hand it was time to relax in the lounge before dinner. You can buy this wine at the estate to take home though…. as I did.
The lounge is a wonderful place to relax, loads of comfy sofas, armchairs and a log burner too. There are loads of books to read, including a great wine book shelf.
I did notice “Wine for Dummies” too…. I forgot to ask Rich if it had been planted there for me…. HAHA. Also lots of board games available too. This really is a great place to relax.
After a 30 minute rest to chill out and enjoy the wine, I decided to go and have a wander amongst the vines, as the sun was going down, before dinner.
What strikes you immediately as you step out of the flint barns and into the vines , which is literally a few steps, is that the Cradle Valley is so serene and absolutely stunning. The birdsong, which was plentiful, in the early evening was a great backing track to my walk. This estate has been thoughtfully planned, to become one with the environment.
Back in for a freshen up and off to dinner in the Flint barn dining room.
We perused the menu, produce all locally sourced Sussex where possible which is part of sustainability ethos that the estate has. The kitchen is open to the dining room, you can see the chef making your dinner.
Opting for fresh tomato and pesto soup, lamb with seasonal vegetables, and then Rhubarb compote …. oh and the most delicious Chocolate tart with Ginger ice-cream.
Tomato and Pesto soup
Lamb & Mash Potato
Chocolate Tart & Ginger Ice cream
Rhubarb Compote with Ginger Ice Cream
There is quite a good wine selection too, by the bottle and by the glass. We opted for glasses of Rioja and a Cabernet Sauvignon.
After supper Rich joined us for a great evening chatting about the estate and chewing the fat about wine….. while drinking a couple of bottles epic vino.
DAY 2 up early as I wanted to see the valley in the morning light and boy oh boy was it worth it….
Now down to the serious business…. BREAKFAST… nothing to disappoint here for sure.
I always judge breakfast initially on COFFEE! perfect start and then cornflakes and onto a very good full English breakfast indeed.
Superb breakfast time for another quick wander around the vines before Rich was to show me around the winery. I am going to write another piece about the winery because to give it justice it really needs to be a stand alone blog. Wont be too long!
So after an amazing tour from Rich I had 20 mins to kill before going to the tasting room for lunch.
I decided to check out the terroir.
What is interesting is the level of flint in the soil, which they are repurposing to build walls on the estate.
The top soil is approx. 10cm ONLY in depth and then it is pure chalk. This is the same chalk also found in the champagne region.
The following day we went down to the coast to get some images of the white cliffs which are known as the Seven Sisters, these images show the make up of the soil from sea level. The level of retained moisture in the chalk is approximately 70% water!
Now it was time for lunch!
The tasting room is attached to the winery building and is a superb piece of architecture and was nominated for awards in architecture too.
Into the dining room, with stunning décor and an even more stunning view.
The menu was fabulous, here was our lunch menu for that day. It is constantly changing depending on seasonal produce. Most produce is from sourced locally in Sussex.
Their take on the bread basket was divine, rosemary and grape bread with radishes.
For the first course we chose the Rosé Veal and Salt cod.
Second course was the Halibut with local leeks, potted shrimp and chip shop mash..
JUST WOW…. if you have never tried chip shop mash… you haven’t lived.
Last but by no means least came the puddings, Guanaja bitter chocolate crémeux, fig, salted caramel, crème fraiche and Yuzu tart, with black sesame
I wrote last year about the launch of Rathfinny’s new English sparkling wines, from Sussex, England, you can check that out here. Rathfinny Blog.
After a very successful initial launch their new vintage 2015 Blanc de Noirs & 2016 Rosé are about to be launched on the 1st of May and then released in June 2019.
The launch is at the Ritz in London. The Ritz is one of the most iconic hotels in the world so this truly is a fabulous achievement for Rathfinny as the Ritz are having their new 2015 Blanc de Noirs as their wine of the month in May.
Its only the 2nd time in the 113 year history of the Ritz they have had an English Sparkling wine as their wine of the month.
Giovanni Ferlito, Head of Wine and Beverage at The Ritz:
“We’re delighted that the launch of the first release of Rathfinny’s Blanc de Noirs, the 2015 vintage, will be taking place at The Ritz London on 1st May. I have been a fan of Rathfinny since I had the privilege to visit the Estate in 2017, and believe that the quality of their wines marks them as a leading light within the industry. Rathfinny is the second ever English sparkling wine to be featured in our ‘sparkling wine of the month’ calendar, in the hotel’s 113-year history. With a premium and complex style, I firmly believe Rathfinny represents some of the finest quality in sparkling wine production today, and I look forward to sharing with our hotel guests.
The 2015 Blanc de Noirs, made from 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Pinot Meunier, has been aged for thirty-six months on the yeast lees.
Rathfinny Tasting notes: (as not yet released)
It has an enticing blush that sets the scene for perfumed peony and wild strawberry on the nose, while on the palate, its rich mousse of raspberries and toasted almonds gives way to a caramelised red-apple finish.
English sparkling wine is booming folks!! 2018 was the best harvest to date with record yields across the English wine industry, of course record yields does not necessarily mean amazing wines but all the indicators so far are very good indeed.
Two weeks ago I spent a long weekend on the Rathfinny Estate as they are far more than just a very good vineyard, they have a fabulous restaurant and also great accommodation for up to 30 guests too. I cant give this justice within this blog so there will be a new Rathfinny estate blog out very soon.
Cheers all, and get yourself down to the Ritz to sample Rathfinny Blanc de Noirs 2015 (from the 1st May) before its even released in June.
Well I know you must be amazed at the fourth blog in ten days!
I had met Tiléri and Natalie from Poulton Hill Estate vineyard at a couple wine tastings in the Cotswolds and really wanted to go and check out what they are doing.
Well my twitter buddy Swami, now lifelong food & wine friend from Iowa, told me he was coming to see me on an epic five week tour he had planned in Europe. So I started to plan a couple of days for him with me in Worcestershire. Food and wine both days was hugely important as Swami eats amazingly on his worldwide travels. With a few days before Swami’s arrival the weather forecast was superb for the upcoming days of his visit. With this in mind I thought we have to go to an ENGLISH vineyard!.
The new tasting room at Poulton Hill Estate.
So this was the perfect opportunity to visit Poulton Hill Estate in the stunning Cotswolds as its only 45 minutes from home. With only two days notice we were made extremely welcome by Tiléri and Natalie. Many thanks.!!!!
The 7 acres of the Poulton Hill Estate vineyard were planted in 2010, set in the idyllic Cotswold countryside, close to the Roman town of Cirencester and Regency spa town of Cheltenham.
The vines planted are on south facing slopes, 8800 in total, which equates to about 20,000 bottles per year. They have three white varieties: Phoenix, Bacchus, Seyval Blanc and three red varieties: Pinot Noir, Regent and Rondo.
Other than some occasional help around the vineyard Tiléri and Natalie do everything. Obviously labour is brought in for the harvest, but when I say everything I mean EVERYTHING.
These are two petite ladies and they get stuck into every single part of what’s involved within the vineyard. Vine maintenance, pruning, wires, thinning, you name it they do it. Not only that but they are the face of Poulton at many events in the UK too. Oh and the tasting room, paperwork, telephones, orders, deliveries……. EVERYTHING!
Tiléri was telling me that at an event when they told a consumer they were the ones that worked the estate the response was ” I’m sure you don’t – day to day” in which she responded, “feel free to come anytime and see that WE MOST DEFINITELY DO.
They certainly are a dynamic duo and they work bloody hard too! Both Swami and I discussed this on the way home after we had finished. We were sure that its not an easy job, however extremely rewarding when all the work comes to fruition with wonderful wines. Especially when the wines are winning awards and the wine buying public are loving them too!
2013 Brut Rosé has been highly commended at The World’s Finest Glass of Bubbly Awards 2017.
2012 Brut English Sparkling Wine has won yet another medal. The wine won a silver medal at The World’s Finest Glass of Bubbly awards.
Poulton Hill Bacchus 2016 wins Drinks Product of the Year at the Cotswold Life Food and Drink Awards.
English Sparkling White 2012, awarded a Q in the Quality Drink Awards.
Responsibility to the environment is an integral part of what they do. They have Babydoll sheep that graze the orchard and wildflowers planted to help the insect population.
They have two flocks of rare-breed sheep, Jacob’s Sheep and Olde English Babydoll Southdown Sheep, two of the oldest breeds in England. The Babydoll sheep are perfect for keeping the area around the vines tidy without eating the grapes also fertilizing the soil as they go.
So Natalie held the fort and Tiléri took Swami and I to see the vines.
The first thing that we both noticed were the stunning Roses! I have only ever seen this once before at Querciabella, in Tuscany (Querciabella is a Biodynamic Vineyard)
It’s a very old tradition which is done as vines and roses are both susceptible to the same mildew and fungus and they acted as an early warning system on the end of the rows. Although these days at Poulton Estate it’s purely for cosmetic reasons as vine management today is very different to how it was many years ago.
Back to the tasting room to sample the delights of Poulton Estate wines.
Currently they make six still wines, (the reserve red was just released when we visited and not in the photo), three sparkling, a Cotswold brandy and a Sloe de Vie.. don’t worry I will explain. I hadn’t heard of it either.
Throughout the tasting it was obvious to Swami and I that these ladies certainly are involved with everything aspect in the vineyard, as their knowledge and experience, to all of our questions, from terroir to bottle was very impressive.
Bacchus is of German origin and named after the Roman God of wine.
In the glass this is light gold with a platinum edged quality too. Elderflower and peach on the nose. On the palate its fresh grapefruit, gooseberry, ripe tropical notes too. On the finish its dry and crisp with a touch of mineral right on the end. Really good on its own or with some fresh seafood it would be a delight!
Phoenix 2015 (although now 2017 vintage)
Again the variety is of German origin.
In the glass this is very light in colour indeed. The nose has fabulous elderberry and herbaceous hints reminiscent of a traditional French Sauvignon. This medium-bodied wine is packed full of flavour with notes of lychee, elderberry and gooseberry, followed by a refreshingly clean finish.
Special Reserve 2016
Phoenix is of German origin and Seyval Blanc is of French origin.
Grapes: Phoenix and Seyval Blanc
Pale straw colour in the glass with fresh aromas of elderflower and pear on the nose. The palate is bursting with juicy peach, finishing with tones of zesty lemon sherbet.
Grapes: Phoenix, Seyval Blanc, Rondo and Regent
The NV Rosé is salmon pink in colour, has cherry and slight plummy tones with a long, long finish. Delicious summer sipping!
This wine is a delight drunk on a hot summer day or will pair with white fish, chicken or pork dishes.
This wine was not tasted on the day and had not been released. It is available now.
It has soft, well-rounded, ripe summer fruits on the nose that lead to delicate hints of damson plum and strawberries, with a crisp, dry finish on the palate.
Special Reserve Red 2016
Well I drank this one again last night.
Grapes: Rondo and Regent, with only 663 bottles made of this first vintage of this wine.
In the glass this wine is deep violet red in colour with a vibrant violet edge. The nose is blackberry, ripe black cherry with a touch of vanilla toastyness. The palate is an explosion of fruit! Black Cherry, quickly followed by stewed sweet plums. This wine is aged for six months in American oak so it does have a touch of vanilla although very little, and on the end it has a lovely spicey touch. Tannins are well integrated and it has a lovely soft lingering fruity finish. Really enjoyed this wine. Will also be good to see how it develops in the bottle over the next 12 months.
On to the sparkling wine
A new name for English sparkling wine? Well Poulton Estate certainly think so.
Poulton Hill Estate has a trademark registered for ‘Bulari’ (a variation of the Latin for bubbles) as a generic term to describe English sparkling wine.
English sparkling wine producers have been searching for a catchy name to signify prestige and reflect ever-increasing quality for years now. The use of the Latin term Bulari reflects the fact that vines for wine-making were first introduced to Britain by the Romans.
As a recognition of their awards, quality and success, Poulton Hill Estate’s award-wining sparkling white and rosé wines will now be labelled Bulari. High-quality English sparkling wine producers, who meet the same strict production criteria for making English sparkling wines, will also be able to use the term under license.
Time will tell if this name catches on….. but always I hear lots banded round the industry that we don’t have a name like, Cava, Sekt, Prosecco or Champagne.
In the glass it’s beautiful pale pink with fine perlage. On the nose it’s a summer berry heaven! A Strawberry and cream delight. This was the first glass we started with on the tasting and I think Swami was surprised at how good quality this tasting was going to be. This follows by quite a long dry finish with a touch of minerality on the end.
This is great as an aperitif but equally a great food wine. In fact the first time my wife and I had this wine was at a lovely pub down the road from the vineyard and I had a burger for lunch. Paired a treat!RRP: £27.99
English Sparkling Brut
Grapes: Seyval Blanc, Phoenix, Rondo and Regent. ( not tasted on the day)
Poulton Hill Estate English sparkling wine is a rich straw yellow colour with a slight touch of pink. The nose is a lovely blend of English summer fruits, with hints of gooseberry and grapefruit. The palate is equally reminiscent of an English summer, with notes of crisp green apple, elderflower, a touch of lime and hints of redcurrant and strawberry. RRP: £60.00
Grapes: Seyval Blanc & Pinot Noir
Pale straw golden in the glass with fine perlage, the nose is green apples and pears with citrus notes of orange, lemon and limes. On the palate juicy apple bursts across your tongue followed by citrus freshness which creates a wonderful well-rounded mouthfeel. This is very clean and fresh.
Sloe de Vie.
Sloe de Vie displays delicious fruit flavours of sloes hand-picked at the peak of ripeness following the harvest in 2015.
Once fermented, the sloe wine was triple distilled and then bottled.
The delicate aromas and freshness of the fruit have been preserved, resulting in a spirit of exceptional smoothness. Much like a fine grappa. RRP £37.99
This Limited edition Cotswold Brandy has been produced exclusively from grapes harvested by hand at the Poulton Hill Estate in 2013. Following fermentation, the base wine has been triple distilled and then matured in American Oak casks.
Cotswold Brandy has a wonderful nose of deep almond and vanilla, with hints of wood and notes of spice. The palate is beautifully soft and smooth with a fruity finish.
Each bottle of this limited release has been carefully hand labelled and individually hand numbered. Unfortunately it was only a 200 bottle run and its all SOLD OUT!
Experience Poulton Hill for yourself
It really is a wonderful vineyard to visit, the Cotswold countryside is stunning and definitely worth a visit for a weekend or longer. There are plenty of places to stay from B&B’s to luxury country house hotels.
Poulton Hill Estate Vineyard feature. Pictured tiléri charles-jones. 21/07/17 Thomas Kelsey
Poulton Hill Estate Vineyard feature. Pictured tiléri charles-jones. 21/07/17 Thomas Kelsey
Poulton Hill Estate Vineyard feature. Pictured tiléri charles-jones. 21/07/17 Thomas Kelsey
Poulton Hill Estate Vineyard feature. Pictured roses. 21/07/17 Thomas Kelsey
Poulton Hill Estate Vineyard feature. Pictured tiléri charles-jones. 21/07/17 Thomas Kelsey
You can join Poulton estate for a relaxed tour around their vineyard, where they will take you through the history and the growing of grapes. From there, you can sample a selection of their wines at their Cellar Door. Tours start at 11am and last about 1 ½ hours. Tickets cost £15 per person, with a maximum of 20 tickets available for each tasting.
Tours run Monday to Friday and one Saturday per month until Oct 2018.
For dates and to book your tour, please call Poulton Estate on: 0044 (0)1285 850257
Why not join Tiléri & Natalie for a harvest experience? Harvest is one of the best times of year at Poulton Hill Estate. There is always a great atmosphere as you will work up and down the vines in pairs picking the fruit. If you would like to help out or learn more about what happens at harvest time in a vineyard, please contact them : firstname.lastname@example.org
Huge Thank you to Tiléri and to Natalie who were fabulous hosts to us. I really do take my hat off to all the hard work that you put into this vineyard. Its obvious it is so much more than a Job to you both. Salute 🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷
Again I wrote this blog because I love what they are doing at Poulton Estate and their wines.
I have not been paid to write this blog nor do I have any affiliation to Poulton Estate.
The wine drunk last night SPECIAL RESERVE RED 2016 was kindly given to me by Swami who bought it on our visit. Thanks Swami.
Hi again…… I know 3 blogs in a week! and there is more next week too.
Astley vineyard is actually the closest vineyard to my home in Worcestershire. (40 mins south of the UK’s 2nd city Birmingham)
When I started to taste more English still wines at trade events I really had to go and visit Astley as they are 15 minutes from my house. I spoke with them on twitter for a while and then about 7 months ago in Jan 2018 I visited for the first time. I haven’t written about them until now because there were big plans afoot at Astley which will all come clear in this blog.
Astley used to be the most northerly vineyard in the WORLD! When it was established in the Severn Valley, Worcestershire, in 1971.
The terroir for this part of Worcestershire where the vineyard is planted is Triassic Sandstone and about 200 million years old (ish) this provides excellent drainage and a naturally high acidity in the wines also.
The vineyard is on an east facing slope located by a deep valley which draws away cold air, 1/2 mile away from the river Severn which also moderates the micro climate.
Below is a geo map of the county. Sandstone was used for many of the old buildings in the county too.
The original founders, the Bache family, planted varieties such as Madeleine Angevine and Siegerrebe decades before its potential in England was realised. Many of these vines still stand – including their unique 46 year old Kerner – providing ASTLEY now with almost unrivalled maturity and heritage. There is also Pinot Noir, used for blending and some chardonnay……. which is used for nothing as it never ripens enough! It is being replaced in the not to distant future.
Jonty Daniels who was a bit of a legend amongst small English wine producers owned the vineyard for over 24 years, and retired in July 2017.
He wasn’t going to sell to just anybody, they had to have the same vision & values for the little estate that he had. So in 2017 the Haywood family bought the vineyard and moved in, July 17′.
There are 5 Haywood’s in the Family that are involved passionately in this new venture/adventure.
Dad & Owner: Tim. Each time I have visited Tim is super busy getting his hands dirty and really getting stuck into every job on the estate. A far cry I’m sure from his past life as a Financial Director in the City.
Mum: Bev. The first time I met Bev she was pruning the vines in Jan. On their website it describes Bev as the lynch pin holding it all together. Bev if you are anything like my mother & I am sure that you are. We would all be lost without our Mums.
Son: Chris. Chris exudes passion for this project! A great guy and like the whole family 100% committed every day to anything that the vineyard requires. He spent 2 years at a luxury wine shop and is WSET Level 3 qualified, Chris is Astley’s wine man.
The Finnish Wife of Chris: Matleena, who is the business manager and accounts dept.
Daughter: Daisy. Resident Landscape Architect and artist. Daisy lends her creative eye to projects and looks after the estate woodland and gardens.
The previous owner Jonty always had the wine made at a large commercial vineyard but the Haywood’s have other plans completely. They want control over the whole process.
The first part of this I saw a few months ago, in early May, where the foundations for the new winery & the new tasting room & shop were getting underway.
Everything has changed at Astley…… well except for the vines!. Their new Astley branding for the business together with their new beautiful bottle labels are a credit to them. A collaboration with the very talented team at Wearebeard, based in Worcester. In fact I must get in touch with them to get new pietrovini branding!
New nature inspired labels incorporating the wildlife around the vineyard. Please click on any of the bottles above to get much larger image. It will open a new page.
So now in July, just a few short months after the start of new buildings, the new shop and tasting room are complete. The winery will be finished imminently.
So the new tasting room has a great layout including a bar!, plenty of tables and seating and even a quite corner to relax in too.
The whole ethos of what the Haywood’s are doing at Astley is a credit to them, they understand that they are a boutique winery with only 5 acres of vines, they will never make much more than 10,000 bottles per year. So to that end they have made the whole vineyard extremely visitor friendly, from walking through the woodland to the vineyard, or just popping in to have a glass of their wine on the new terrace. (Licence will be in place within weeks.) They will also be opening as a bar once or twice a month on a Friday or Saturday night, ticket only to enjoy their wines. Check website for updates.
Not only are they doing their own wine tasting sessions but Chris is providing monthly tastings for other wines from all over the world too. Sometimes these are just tasting nights but also they are doing gourmet food nights with wine matching each course. Which are quite the event.
Starting with a quick tour of the vines with Chris and some Q&A too.
Then a stroll up through the vines to the huge Teepee where the wines and delicious food is served.
These events will take place frequently, there are 3 over the next few weeks. Take a look at the website link https://www.astleyvineyard.co.uk/events if you fancy a great night in the vines. Perfect Summer BBQ wines, Natural wines & the KERNER tasting experience which is not to be missed.
Join the Haywood family for a special exploration of the Kerner grape. Focusing on wines made from Kerner, you will taste an exclusive range of wines both from their private collection, as well as from Astley Vineyard’s unreleased stocks. Unlike their other events, you will sit down with their entire family and explore wine as a group.
About time I started talking about their delicious wines.
Madeleine Angevine 2016or “MAD ANGIE” as is sometimes known in the UK.
Grapes: Madeleine Angevine
Residual Sugar: 7.6 g/L
Total Acidity: 9.2 g/L
A delicate wine floral on the nose, on the palate grapefruit with a touch of peachy notes too. On the finish the there is crisp acidity with a little mineral note too. A real citrus blast of a wine. a real foodie wine.
RRP £ 11.00 Bargain!
Severn Vale 2016
Grapes: Bacchus, Madeleine Angevine, Kerner & tiny drop of Oaked Sauvignon Blanc too.
Residual Sugar: 10.2 g/L
Total Acidity: 8.4 g/L
This is a fabulous light summer wine for sitting out on the patio in the sunshine. Off dry. On the nose its apples all the way! On the palate ripe fruit with a crunchy green apple freshness delighting with a light floral note, which then leads to more rich tropical notes and citrus acidity from the MAD ANGIE and Kerner on the finish. The SB in the wine gives a little roundness on the finish, but as its only about 2% its not made it feel oaky in anyway shape or form.
RRP £ 10.00
Grapes: Siegerrebe & Bacchus
Residual Sugar: 3.8 g/L
Total Acidity: 6.1 g/L
This is quite a big wine on the nose with a multitude of huge tropical fruit flavours filling the nose which makes you desperate to taste. Super fruity wine, yet dry. Mango, pineapple, passionfruit with the zest of limes. An absolute delight. In fact I drank one last night.
This wine is a great aperitif however it will be stunning with Asian food, spiced foods or as I had last night crab pâté on granary toast with ripe tomatoes.
RRP £ 16.00
Residual Sugar: 9.7 g/L
Total Acidity: 8.5 g/L
For those of you who have not heard about Bacchus, well for me it’s to England what Sauvignon Blanc is to NZ.
It’s a crisp & dry wine, it’s packed with flavours of elderflower, kiwi fruit, lime, grapefruit and crisp green apples. All this fruit flavour yet dry but with a good acidity and a lingering finish too. Every time I taste this wine new flavours appear its a really delicious wine.
RRP £ 16.00
Old Vine Kerner 2015
Grapes: Kerner from 45 yr old vines
Residual Sugar: 10.3 g/L
Total Acidity: 8.8 g/L
For me without a doubt this is Astley Vineyards flagship wine. Its truly wonderful, I cant quite get my head round the fact that its from Worcestershire and 15 minutes from my house!
Slightly off dry this wine is elegant on the nose with fresh elderflower & honeysuckle. On the palate its white peaches, elderflower, a zestyness of freshness too. On the end it has a little nutty and spicey touch too.
I was and am a big fan of this wine. I bought this wine, then went back within a few days to get a case. It definitely has some aging potential too.
RRP £ 19.50
Vintage Spakling Kerner 2014
Residual Sugar: 11.8 g/L
Total Acidity: 9.8 g/L
Now I’m going to review this when the next vintage comes out as its not now for sale as its all been sold.
What’s interesting it’s really a great English Sparkling wine that is not made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier.
RRP £ 28.50 SOLD OUT (SORRY)
But you can have by the glass in Central London at the Coral Rooms at the Bloomsbury hotel.
Images above were taken by me this morning 5th Aug 2018. 46 year old Kerner vines and this years crop so far.
There are great plans a foot and the grape press is being delivered tomorrow, so I will keep you informed about Astley’s new in house winery too.
I wrote this because I love what they are doing at Astley and their wines.
I bought their wines myself and have not been paid to write this blog nor do I have any affiliation.
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.
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.
Great Britain is making seriously good… no seriously bloody great wines!
Wine GB is the premier wine event for the UK wine industry held at the Royal Horticultural Society Lindley Hall in London. All of the Vineyards at the event are listed at the end of this blog with their websites and twitter handles too. Please check some of them out.
For sure Great Britain is known for its stunning (worldwide) award winning sparkling wines, however what really was the shocker for me is how fantastic English still wines have become also!.
Just a few FACTS about GB wine industry to get you started:
(ALL FACTS FROM WINE GB WEBSITE)
Commercial Vineyards: 502
Hectares Under Vine: 2554 (6308 Acres) Hectarage planted has tripled since 2000
Vines Planted in 2017: 1 Million
Predicted Planting for 2018: 1.5 to 1.7 Million Vines
Types of wine sold: Still wine 32% (1.9m btl) Sparkling 68% 4m Bottles
Export: 27 Countries (4% of wine produced)
Top Grape Varieties: No1. Pinot Noir 31.5%, No.2 Chardonnay 30.2% No.3 Pinot Meunier 9.5%. These 3 sparkling varieties account for 71.2% of all grapes grown in GB currently.
So I spent the morning tasting Sparkling wines. From table to table, one vineyard to the next the quality was outstanding. Below were my sparkling wines of the morning, however ALL the sparkling I tasted on the day were of such a high quality.
Hambledon: Vineyards: Première Cuvée NV RRP £42.50
Gusbourne: Blanc de Blancs 2013 RRP £35.00
Nyetimber: Blanc de Blancs 2010 £43.99
Cottonworth: Classic Cuvée NV RRP £28.00
Now I have written a few pieces lately on Sparkling wines (check the archive) so I am not reviewing any of these sparkling wines today. What I have mentioned earlier are the wonderful still wines GB is now producing.
I bumped into my great wine buddy Mike again! (www.pleasebringmemywine.com @pbmmw – twitter) who told me that I needed to taste a wine. I was stood next to the Welsh Vineyards Association stand. I did not have very high hopes. How wrong was I!
OK once again I was proved to be a complete muppet! I ended up being there 20 mins and having a great and interesting tasting!
So I was introduced to Woody from Montgomery Vineyard who poured me a glass of white wine
It was 100% Solaris grape variety 2016.
Solaris meaning “Sun” is an early ripening variety originally from Germany and perfect for the cooler climate of Wales. Its fruity & Zesty with a fresh slightly off dry feel, then with tropical, slightly nutty finish. Great Summer sipping! Approx RRP. £20
Then came the second wine. RONDO 2016: This is a medium bodied red with a big redberry fruit burst. Rondo is again a cool climate grape variety. Approx RRP £20
I’m looking forward to visiting soon to further follow up on these wines. (please note this vineyard is not open to the public ….. YET)
Then I met Robb Merchant, who is currently Chairman of the Welsh Vineyard Association & also owner of White Castle Vineyards in Abergavenny. Only about 40 mins from my house actually…. but that’s another story in a couple of blogs time (next week I promise!) 5 Acres 4800 vines, truly a great story. Pinot Noir Précoce 2016 Approx RRP £20
This intrigued me to start to look for all the other still wines at the tasting.
Denbies Wine Estate was my next stop. This estate is based in Surrey in the south East of England and the vines were planted in 1986. Denbies is currently the largest producer in the UK with circa. 500,000 bottles per year. Now they make a lot of sparkling wines but I was interested mainly in their range of still wines.
What drew me too the table was I saw in the catalogue that they had Pinot Gris & I love Pinot Gris.
The Pinot Gris poured was very pale in colour, so a good start. On the nose there was brioche and ripe fruits. It has lots of body and has a full on mouth feel, but with zesty acidity on the finish its beautifully balanced. Approx Retail £17 Bargain!
PINOT NOIR 2016. Well I’m quite fussy about the old PN as it goes but I was pleasantly surprised by this full on single varietal PN. Fairly light cherry red in the glass. On the nose and the palate it was a plummy/raspberry delight. I could have easily pulled up a chair, sipped all afternoon and would have done if there was also a nice plate of charcuterie.
Just before I left Denbies table I was asked would I like to try the dessert wines. Well to be honest that was a new one for me. I actually didn’t know GB wine industry made any. I was put right then and have been since too. I’ve always been a fan of dessert wines and have at least 20 different types at home. So of course I jumped at the chance.
Denbies produce 2 dessert wines. Noble Harvest 2016 & The Brokes Botrytis Ortega 2016
Both Wines are made from 100% Ortega Grapes. While the Noble harvest was delicious, golden in the glass & heavenly on the palate 12%ABV (RRP £24.95 Half bottle) The Brokes Botrytis 2016 was just stunning wine and winemaking. 10%ABV deep rich golden nectar in colour, absolutely heavenly on the nose, and the palate is divine, caramelised orange, a touch of vanilla from the oak barrels and OH OH OH so rich. Yet on the finish it is not cloyingly sweet and is a pretty clean finish. Only a 500 bottle production unfortunately but if you can get it its worth the cost. RRP £60.00
Before I bore you all to death I have one more wine to share with you.
Simpsons Wine Estate “The Roman Road Chardonnay 2017”
Ashleigh from Simpsons was telling me that it wasn’t quite ready as it had only been bottled for less than 2 weeks, however they were really wanting to show the trade their new Chardonnay. This was their 2nd vintage of the wine only. On my initial tasting I was very impressed considering the length of time in the bottle and had barely had time to settle. I then tasted the wine another month later at the London Wine Fair and it was developing amazingly.
This is an elegant Chardonnay, it has only spent for 3 months in French Oak.
Its fresh on the nose, with a lime zestiness and white peaches (just like the wonderful ripe white peaches I have in Italy for a true Bellini)
On the palate its mineral, citrus and super clean with the slightest touch of vanilla & spice on the finish. This wine is very good. RRP £22.99
The Roman Road Vineyard, is situated alongside the route the Romans first marched when invading England in AD 43, bringing with them the first vines. FACT!
The reason I haven’t written about this tasting until now is very simple. I wanted to go and explore what I had locally, central UK, within an hour of my house for more still wine gems. These blogs will be ongoing over the next two weeks and are on small boutique vineyards.
White Castle Vineyard, Astley Vineyard, & Poulton Hill Vineyard.
Please see below links to all the vineyards at WINE GB and also the relevant associations of county’s too. Also a great resource is the WINEGB website. Please take the time and explore these wonderful vineyards.