Why it’s time to cellar the Chateauneuf and switch to a British vintage

We’re not big drinkers here in the Love Cottages office, but we do have our favourite tipples. We may have expressed an interest in fine, artisan gin in the past and this post alone is testimony to our penchant for a glass of wine every now and then, but we like to savour, not quaff. Well, most of the time.

One thing’s for sure, we’re absolutely not wine snobs. We know what we like and we know where to find it. But that means we love being introduced to new grape varieties, trying new vintages and are generally on the hunt for the next best thing. And we’re not afraid to shout about them when they set our palates alight with delight.

If you ask around the team, you’ll find more than your fair share of love for a Kiwi sauvignon blanc – the empties of Tiki Ridge and Freeman’s Bay are commoners in our colleagues’ recycling bin. But so are a well aged Puligny-Montrachet, the likes of those produced by Olivier Le Flaive come out for special occasions. On the vin rouge front, we all agree that a robust Chateauneuf du Pape makes the best partner for a ribeye steak. And in terms of fizz we’re not fussed by the big brands and tend to opt for less gassy options like a prosecco or that well known bargain basement supermarket’s award winning Monsigny Champagne for a summer celebration or pre-dinner sip.

But in this post we’re putting our wine status quo to one side and delving into the vineyards of England and Wales. Don’t run away just yet. British vineyards have been winning international recognition and accolades for some time now. And yes, there are some natural similarities to be made between the climates of Kent and (northern) France but that doesn’t make the rest of Britain and no-go for vines. In our corner of south Oxfordshire, you’ll find vines on a sunny ridge in Shillingford and on the slopes of the Fairmile in Henley on Thames. But look west and north, even as far as Scotland, and you’ll find viticulture thriving where the soil and the weather conditions permit.

And so we bring you some of our favourite British vineyards…

Adgestone Vineyard, Isle of Wight

If you think viticulture is pretentious, then make your way to the southern isle and visit Adgestone – England’s oldest vineyard. While you learn a thing or two about English wine production, you’ll be more than a little fascinated by all that’s going on here. This place has the potential to fill an afternoon, even with kids in tow.

But back to the wine. Their dry white dares to associate its grapefruit notes with the zing we know and love in a New Zealand sauvignon blanc. Well we can’t promise you’ll be transported to Marlborough country but we do think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by this fresh and somehow nutty vintage. And there’s clearly something good going on down here on the Isle of Wight for them to also produce a robust and full bodied red wine that you’d happily swap for your usual Merlot.

Wine aside, these fermenting experts have also turned their hedgerows into a source of ingredients for their ‘Country Wines’, which include an elderflower dessert wine. Sounds good, doesn’t it.

Pant Du, Penygroes, Caernarfon

This is one of Gwynedd’s entrepreneurial success stories and a thriving family business to boot. They’ve only been producing wine since 2010 but they won an award for their very first vintage. So these guys are on to something. And although they first planted the Rondo grape, they now have eight vine varieties in the foothills of Mount Snowdon that produce the Pant Du red, white and rose vintages each year.

But this isn’t just about good Welsh wine. There’s a more than ample orchard of native Welsh apple varieties producing apple juice and cider. And naturally, being a farm in a glacial valley it comes as no surprise that there’s a source of mineral water here too.

If the prospect of a jaunt up Wales’ tallest mountain is a little too much, Pant Du host guided vineyard tours and tasting every Sunday at 11am from April through to October – booking advised.

 

Laurel Vines, AIke, East Yorkshire

You can’t help but love this fledgling enterprise. True to its Yorkshire roots, there’s been plenty of toil and some adverse weather but their first vintages are here. There’s a summery note to the dry white wine that makes it easy to move to a second glass. And their English rose gets a big tick for its dry finish and putting the sweet rose stereotype firmly in its box. Verdict: one to watch.

 

Gwinllan Llaethliw Vineyard, Ciliau Aeron, Ceredigion

We can’t pronounce this beautiful looking name even before we taste the wine. Memorising the spelling proved tricky too. But Gwinllan Llaethliw in Ceredigion not a place you want to forget.

From four vine varieties, they produce a red, white and rose, only the later blending two of those varieties (Orion and Regent). And if you’re wondering how a Welsh grown grape survives a hardy British frost, you’ll be perhaps even more fascinated to know that the Rondo variety grown to produce the red wine is of Russian origin and particularly frost-hardy. So there!

Camel Valley, Cornwall

Now before you place a delivery to be sent your Cornish holiday home this summer, think about taking a day away from the beach and visiting the vineyard. You think the beaches are great down here. You’ll be blown away by the lush rural surrounds of the Camel Valley estate and that’s without even sniffing the tasting measures. Their sun-soaked vines have a trophy cabinet even a French wine producer would be proud of. There’s even a fizz to celebrate your discovery with!

Gusborne, Appledore, Kent

If you know your Valdi from your Lindauer, then you’ve more than likely tried your fair share of Champagne alternatives. But have you tried a Gusborne?

For an operation not even in its teens and that sells just three vintages, there are accolades and gold medals galore reflecting the precision viticulture at play here. Although your friends have likely already heard of and drunk Gusborne, they certainly won’t mind you arriving with a bottle when you’re next round for dinner. This is a company making Kent proud.

Naturally, you’ll find some of our holiday cottages not too far away from these temptation filled wine tastings and tours. And we’re certain the vineyards will know a local taxi company or two should you find more than one favourite amidst their offerings. So all that’s left to say is, cheers!