If you’ve already chatted to me at a Perfect Friday Wine event, it’s likely that I’ve already bent your ear about just how wonderful English Wine is these days, and also likely that you’ve tried some of my award winning sparklers from Bluebell Vineyard Estates in East Sussex. Had I mentioned that their Brut Rosé has just won best sparkling rosé in the Judgement of Parsons Green competition against over 90 other English sparkling wines and came third overall? Well, now you know and if you haven’t already, you must try it – it’s glorious!
East Sussex is also home to some of the better known vineyards such as Ridgeview, Henners and much anticipated Rathfinny. The rest of the southern-most counties, are also home to the biggest and internationally recognised vineyards such as Camel Valley in Cornwall, Nyetimber in West Sussex, Chapel Down and Gusborne in Kent to name but a few. But you may be surprised to know that up here, nearby in the Chilterns, where the soil is still similar to that of Champagne, and the climate is still nice and warm (a degree up in the last decade), we have a whole plethora of local viti and viniculturists of our own, growing the same grape varieties and making wine in the same traditional method as Champagne.
As we approach English Wine Week (24-31 May 2014), allow me to introduce you to Maidenhead and Marlow’s own local vineyard scene, some of our closest vineyards and what they’re up to, in the hope that I can intrigue you enough to get a little bit interested in English wine, how it’s a growing player in our local produce scene and encourage you to get out there and taste it!
Dropmore Vineyard, Dropmore, Buckinghamshire
John Petersen owns and tends to 3 acres of vines on the top of the hill, just a few hundred metres East from Hedsor House. I met John back in January when he was half way through the winter pruning and I was allowed to have a go at a spot of cane pruning. Tucked away off the country lane, he grows not only the 3 champagne grapes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinor Meunier, but also popular white grapes, Bacchus and Ortega. As well as a sparkling white wine made from the former 3, John also produces still wines, a rosé and 2 whites. His 2011 Bacchus won best white wine in any class at last year’s T&CVA (Thames and Chilterns Vineyard Association) Challenge, so I am eagerly awaiting the release of his latest vintages for potential Perfect Friday Wine listage. Also, look out for Dropmore wines over the summer in local gastropubs.
Pump Lane Vineyard, Little Marlow
You may have noticed, as you drive up the A404 towards Wycombe, on the left there, at the top of the hill a few vines, a glimpse of Henry Laithwaite’s, son of Tony, new venture. Planting of the vineyard started back in 2010 and the first grapes were harvested back in 2012 – the most exciting year yet for the consumption of English wine, what with the Queen drinking it on her Jubilee Flotilla and further Union Jack waving throughout the Olympics. 2012 was also a year that many English vineyards wrote off entire harvests due to the horrendously wet weather, so a successful harvest that year is a promising sign for the Pump Lane site. We won’t see any of Henry’s wines for at least another year, but in the meantime, try Henry’s mum’s Wyfold English Sparkling from Laithwaites, which came joint 4th behind Bluebell’s Rosé in the JoPG. You can also keep up with progress with the Pump Lane Vineyard on the Harrow and Hope English Sparkling Facebook page.
Stanlake Park, Twyford
Perhaps the best known local vineyard, not only do Stanlake make their own range of wines, but many local vineyards use their wine making facilities and expertise of resident wine maker, Vince Gower. The vineyard itself has recently changed hands, so who knows what’s in store, but they grow a whole plethora of grapes, Stanlake’s Kings Fumé has just been awarded an International Wine Challenge Bronze Medal and they have a variety of different wines, including a couple of reds. I’d certainly recommend a trip to their shop and beautiful courtyard garden on a summer’s day for a taste of their wine and perhaps a picnic. They also run winery tours with a 9 wine tasting.
I hate to go on too long, but I couldn’t write an article on local English wine without venturing a little further beyond Marlow. Follow the river round to Hambledon and you’re in Henley’s own little wine country where several vineyards are sited; Oaken Grove are reknowned for their fabulous ‘Benham Blush’ rosé; Fawley and Pheasants Ridge, both of whom make some fabulous sparkling and still Bacchus, the latter being available at Gilbey’s Restaurant in Eton, the shop at Fawley being open October through December. Up the hill a bit finds Chiltern Valley who are open for winery and brewery tours – check out their gorgeous line of liqueurs too. There’s also a newly planted vineyard on the Fairmile in full view of the road – Champagne eat your heart out! Head that little on past Henley and Wallingford and you find Brightwell Vineyard, focussing on still wines and making the best reds I’ve tried around these parts, offering tours from June throughout the summer.
So next time you’re looking for a bottle of wine to go with that locally reared turkey or asparagus that you picked yourself, or have occasion for a few bubbles, there’s no need to stop with the local produce with the wine, call Perfect Friday Wine and go English!
Hopefully I’ve intrigued you and you want to find out more. Come and see me on Saturday 24th May 9-5.30pm at Emmett’s Farm Shop in Little Marlow. I’ll have a selection of guest English wines, as well as my Bluebell Rosé open for tasting plus my usual Perfect Friday Wines available to buy to stock up your wine rack.
More details on English Wine can also be found by searching ‘English’ on this website search and at the following links:
Fabulous Blog about English Wine: www.englishwinelovers.co.ukInformation on English Vineyards open for visitors: www.WineCellarDoor.co.uk
English Wine Producers: www.englishwineproducers.co.uk/
UK Vineyard Association: www.ukva.org.uk/
Thames and Chilterns UKVA: www.thameschilternsvineyards.org.uk/