Places to stay, things to do, good food and drink
Three of Wales’ vineyards have something special to celebrate in the run up to this year’s Welsh Wine Week which starts on Sat. 23rd May & runs until Sun. 31st. May. The results of the International Wine Challenge competition 2015 have just been announced and commended awards were given to Ancre Hill Estates (Monmouth) Blanc de Noirs 2010 sparkling, White Castle Vineyard’s (Llanvetherine) Regent 2013 red & Parva Farm Vineyard’s (Tintern) Bwthyn Rhosyn 2013 rose & Bacchus 2013 dry white thus proving that excellent wines of all types can be produced in Wales! Let us take a look at the origins of Welsh wine.
Just over 2000 years ago, the Romans marched into S.E. Wales. They brought many new things with them- one of which was the grape vine. They probably planted vines around their villas to make them seem like home & it is quite possible that they planted vineyards & taught the local people to tend vines & make wine. With the climate a bit warmer then, they should have been able to make some good wines.
Turn the clock forward a thousand years and the French had invaded these shores. Cistercian monks arrived from France where they owned large, profitable vineyards. They built Tintern Abbey in the beautiful Wye Valley (and other abbeys around Wales) & settled there. They would almost certainly have planted vineyards nearby even if it was just to make wine for their sacraments.
Now fast forward another thousand years and vineyards are again flourishing in Wales. From Monmouthshire to Glamorgan in the South & Anglesey to Gwynedd in the North, more & more acres of vines are being planted.
One such new planting is that of Charlotte & Colin Bennett who, in 2012, planted a quarter of an acre of vines on the south side of Pydew Mountain, overlooking the Conwy Valley with the stunning backdrop of the Snowdonia National Park. This year they have extended the vineyard by an acre. They enlisted the help of volunteers (with the promise of food & wine at the end), to plant several hundred Rondo, Phoenix & Solaris vines on Bank Holiday Monday! The job was done & the workers rewarded! They have plans for more plantings next year.
During Welsh Wine Week, Charlotte & Colin will be showing visitors their vineyard & explaining their plans for the future. Email them for details at firstname.lastname@example.org
As well as being successful in competitions, Welsh wines are now being served in the House of Lords & in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London (White Castle’s Phoenix). Parva Farm Vineyard made the news recently when their Tintern Parva Bacchus 2013 became the first ever Welsh wine to be sold in Marks & Spencers. It can be found in all their Welsh stores & in some of the English ones too. A M&S spokesperson said “We hope it will demonstrate to customers the wide range of U.K. regions now producing top quality wines”.
One of only two bio-dynamic vineyards in Britain, Ancre Hill Estates at Rockfield, Monmouth will be celebrating the opening of their new winery in July, ready for this year’s harvest. This will be Wales’ first large scale winery & has been built to be ecologically friendly with hay-bale walls & a sedum roof. Ancre Hill specialise in sparkling wines with large plantings of Pinot Noir & Chardonnay grapes.
Ancre Hill Estates at Monmouth will be open every day during Welsh Wine Week from 10.30am until 4.30pm. They will be giving vineyard tours (with a viewing of their state of the art, new winery) at 11.30am & 3.00pm. Free wine tastings will be available & it will be the official launch of their 2013 wines. There will be a 10% discount on a mixed box of wines. See their website www.ancrehillestates.co.uk or ring 01600 714152.
White Castle Vineyard is holding some special events for Welsh Wine Week:
During Welsh Wine Week, Parva Farm Vineyard at Tintern, near Chepstow will be offering free self-guided vineyard tours, free wine tastings & the chance to speak to the owners about growing vines in Wales. There will be special offers on some of their wines. They will be open every day from 11.30am until 5.00pm. See their website www.parvafarm.com or ring 01291689636
Most of the Welsh Vineyards Association member vineyards will be open to the public during Welsh Wine Week to promote their Welsh wines. For details see the website www.winetrailwales.co.uk