Wyfold Vineyard Visit – June 2017

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I recently had the pleasure of doing a little working stint at Oxfordshire based Wyfold Vineyard, helping to re-trellis just a few of their 9000 vines as they look towards their summer growth spurt.

Trellising

Not open to the public, and well hidden-away down some very tiny country lanes, the two hectare Wyfold site is part of the empire of Barbara and Tony Laithwaite, the couple behind leading mail order wine merchant Laithwaites.

Roots and Soil

Planted in the early part of the century on stone and gravel soils at an altitude of 100 metres, the cool climate site is home to just the classic Champagne grape varieties (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier).

Buds

Used to create an exceptional multi-award winning sparkling wine since 2009, the range has now expanded to add a sparkling Rosé from the 2014 vintage for the first time.

Son Henry Laithwaite now runs the show on a daily basis alongside his business partner Ben Postlethwaite and all were present on the day to guide us through our tasks which, on the page, didn’t sound too taxing.

Merely being required to adjust several different trellis wire heights to direct the vines skyward, the generous springtime summer sun heat was both a blessing and a curse.

Like most vineyard work in the UK, payment came at the end in the form of a wonderful home-cooked meal supported by copious amounts of wine.

Marquee1

In addition there was the provision of musical entertainment in the form of ukulele based band Pure Fluke as well as the genial conversation of vineyard friends both old and new.

The Band

To top it all off we were basking in the late evening sun in the lovely surrounds of a vineyard, and any heat fatigue and other aches and pains instantly disappeared.  All in all this was an insightful and rare visit to a vineyard not readily accessible, and another chance to directly help towards the success of English wine.

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With thanks to Laithwaites for arranging this vineyard visit.

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A splendid time is guaranteed for all……!

wine vines

Last year I had the pleasure of doing a short holiday trip around some key UK vineyards within the counties of Surrey and Kent, whilst visiting relatives and a attending a few other commitments.  Amongst others, the trip saw visits to Denbies, Chapel Down and Biddenden, and all were filled with lovely people, opportunities to try (and purchase) new wines, as well as touring vineyards, and photographing some lovely scenery.  This coming October sees me attending a wedding all the way out at Lands End in Cornwall (the most south western point of the UK), and this gives me the perfect opportunity to do a further styled trip and visit some of the more extreme vineyards that I’ve heard about, but not yet been to in person.

From where I am in Newbury, the trip to Lands End will take circa 6 hours by car so, to break up the journey I have extended the trip to 5 days to take account of driving, sight-seeing, and then the main event of the wedding itself. This allows me (in amongst other sight-seeing attractions, which aren’t in short supply in the surfing and seafood capital of the UK) to fit in a fair few visits.  Armed with my UK guide to Vineyards 2010, I have begun prepping out my potential route which will take me through the county of Dorset, in to Devon, perhaps deviating to Somerset, before landing in Cornwall.  As I have already been through Kent and Sussex, and live very near (and have visited) both Hampshire and Oxfordshire, this will give me extremely good coverage of what’s happening in the south of the UK.

My criteria in the main has been to pick vineyards that have fairly large holdings (>8ha), or those that appear top or heavily referenced in travel guides or tourist information.  My current plan is (at the top level) to visit:

DorsetEnglish Oak Vineyards – An estate specialising in producing sparkling wines, and growing 14 different clones of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.  Growing over 23,000 vines, the vineyard apparently appeared in the popular BBC2 series of Oz and James’ wine travels.  I have the DVD of this series, and will have to dig it out!

CornwallKnightor Winery – This one doesn’t actually feature in my 2010 book, so is a fairly new addition.  Low grape yield ensures that this is a premium quality, limited edition affair, and one that UK wine critic Matthew Jukes is all in favour of.  The produce is all of rosé, white or sparkling, and the varieties include such northern latitude grape stalwarts as Bacchus, Madelaine, Siegerrebe, and Schonburger.  A couple there to add to my list of new grape varieties tried!

CornwallCamel Valley – The big one, an absolute not-to-miss vineyard, named after the local Camel River.  In operation since 1989, as well as being Cornwall’s biggest vineyard they have amassed a sizeable clutch of awards (including Decanter and the IWWC) and are hailed as one of the leading UK producers of wine.

I probably have room for one or two more wineries in this trip and would welcome suggestions from readers as to any they have visited or recommend.  At this time my travel diary remains fairly fluid and can accommodate any in the lower western counties of the UK.

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