Thursday, 30 May 2013

English Vineyards

Over the last year I've been lucky enough to visit three of England's vineyards. I thought I'd share my experiences with you, in the hope that we've done a inspiring enough job with our fantastic English Wine Week posts and you now all want to stop reading and get out among the grapes.

Three Choirs, Gloucestershire

A beautiful day to visit Three Choirs.

Last September, shortly after I'd had my eyes (or rather palate) opened to the splendor of English wine, I strategically planned a weekend away with my mum, within a short drive's distance of Gloucestershire's Three Choirs Vineyard.

We signed and paid up (£9 each) for the very informal, yet informative tour with a lovely lady, her big smile and wonderful Gloucester accent.  If I remember correctly, we tried 3 still wines and 1 sparkling. One of the most enjoyable things about this tour was that we talked and tasted and walked all at the same time, mobility which kept everyone entertained. We tasted some overlooking the beautiful vineyard and others had with the working winery as a backdrop. After the tour, some people went into the restaurant whilst others followed the nature trail around the vineyard.

The wine that I took home with me was the Three Choir's Medium House Dry. The Medium House Dry is a beautifully fresh wine, with classic English flavours, elder flower and gooseberry and a bit of zest. It's not a million miles away from Sauvignon Blanc in terms of its taste profile, despite the fact that its produced from a blend of lesser well known grapes: Seyval Blanc, Muller Thurgau, Reichensteiner, Orion, Madeleine Angevine and Huxelrebe (sounds like a bunch of very posh siblings to me!). I think the bottle set me back £7.99, which was definitely money well spent.

Visit Three Choirs if:

  • You want an informal and personable vineyard experience.
  • You're living in or visiting the midlands.
  • You want to experience beautiful countryside and some lovely fresh everyday drinking wines.

Denbies Wine Estate, Surrey

The selection of wines to be tasted in Denbie's cellar.

This bank holiday weekend just gone I went away to a youth hostel near Dorking for a country break with my boyfriend. Once again, I'd been strategic picking my location, knowing that the cosy little hostel, Tanner's was in an forty five minute's walking distance of Denbie's Wine estate.

Denbie's is the largest wine estate in England and the estate which Alan Sugar chose to send his apprentice's to, featured on the episode of The Apprentice which focused on English wine some time last year.

Unfortunately, it was absolutely chucking it down. Fortunately, Denbies have both an outdoor and an indoor option for visitors. Had it not have been raining so hard, Craig and I might have taken the train around the vast vineyard and got up close and personal with the vines, but we were already soaking when we arrived and thought we'd be better off in the shelter of the winery tour.

Me trudging up to Denbie's in the rain.

I hadn't been expecting an 4D cinema experience and a train ride into the cellar, but that's exactly what the wine experience at Denbie's has to offer! The video was very informative but the 360 degree screen made me a bit dizzy and the lack of a real person meant that we couldn't ask questions or engage in any banter. I found it hard to concentrate on the audio commentary as we descended into the cellar on the train, but the host who greeted us at the other end was very nice and knowledgeable.

Denbie's give you three tasting tour options: 1) three classic wines, 2). three sparkling wines 3) three wines + food to accompany, but being the cheeky chick that I am, I managed to negotiate a deal, "because I am a blogger" whereby Craig and I tried both the still and the sparkling wines.

The wine I most enjoyed was their sparkling Greenfields Cuvee 2006. Employing the classic Champagne combination of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, this award winner tasted like a sparkling Fino Manzanilla, with its marzipan and nutty notes - absolutely lovely.

Visit Denbies if:

  • You live in London and want an alternate way to spend your Saturday. Trains go from London Victoria and you can be at Boxhill & Westhumble train station in under an hour, or Dorking, which is also a beautiful town well worth a visit.
  • You want an activity that you can enjoy with your grandparents (there were lots of grey hairs and heads with no hair at all during our visit, but it could be because we visited on a weekday) - they will love the train ride and 4D cinema.
  • You want to experience staggeringly beautiful countryside walks - I think someone told me that there are 7 miles of public footpath that pass through the vineyards.

Nyetimber, Sussex

Last October, I was lucky enough to visit the Nyetimber estate with some of my then colleagues from Majestic. The reason I say "lucky" is because Nyetimber is not open to the public. However, I wanted to tell you a little bit about my visit non-the-less.

In terms of "Englishness",the Nyetimber estate is rich in heritage, once owned by Henry VIII and even recorded in the domesday book. We saw the beautiful estate property, in which the famous English king once would have stood, and walked through the vineyards accompanied by one of the vineyard managers who told us about the extent to which Nyetimber go to uphold quality. Unlike many other English vineyards, Nyetimber do not buy grapes from other private sources as they want to remain completely in control of quality.

All this effort really does pay off, with Nyetimber producing some of our country's most exceptional wine offerings. We got to try about eight different wines, all of which I loved, but was most impressive had to be their peachy, peary and slightly floral Demi-Sec, with a pleasant fresh "lift" to compliment the sweetness, and the Blanc de blanc 1996, which was in a league of its own, with amazing mushroom, brioche and citrus notes. 

Visit Nyetimber if:
  • You ever receive an invite!

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