English Wine Week started in style on Saturday, as winemakers, retailers and restaurants across the country begin a week of activities to encourage people to drink, visit and embrace English Wine. With Surrey emerging as an exciting and multi-award winning region, I took the opportunity to spend Saturday touring some of my local English Wine hotspots to see what they were up to for English Wine Week.
Greyfriars Vineyard, Puttenham
I started at Greyfriars Vineyard in Puttenham, just outside Guildford, who kicked off English Wine week with an open day where all are invited for a free tasting and tour of the vineyard. It’s a great opportunity to have a chance to owners meet Mike, Hilary and the rest of the team and try all of their still and sparkling wines. The Classic Cuvée 2013 is my favourite of the lineup right now, and the youthful Blanc de Blancs 2014 is one to watch out for after it has spent a little longer in the bottle. There's also a number of more unusual wines to discover, such as the Sparkling Fumé made from Sauvignon Blanc and 'Velvet Volker', an oak aged red made from Pinot Noir grapes imported from Pfalz. The vineyards have stunning views across Surrey and are well worth a visit for a stroll around the English countryside. For those that missed the open day on Saturday, there are two more coming on 8th July and 9th September.
Hawkins Bros. Fine English Wines
After Greyfriars it was a short drive over to Hawkins Bros. Fine English Wines, based at Secretts farm shop in Milford. Simon and James Hawkins are shining examples of English Wine ambassadors and two very colourful characters to have in the industry. For the whole of English Wine Week they will have a different winemaker each day hosting a tasting of their wines (full agenda can be found here). Kicking off the proceedings on Saturday was the lovely Jonica Fox of Fox and Fox. With a range of five delicious sparkling wines available for tasting, there was truly something for every palate. Highlights of the current lineup for me are the fresh and vibrant Inspiration Blanc de Blancs (which is a unique blend of Pinot Gris and Chardonnay) and the rich and complex Tradition Blanc de Noirs. I'm hoping to visit Fox & Fox in the coming months, but for now you can find out more about them here.
Albury Organic Vineyard, Albury
Next on my mini Surrey road trip was Albury Organic Vineyard, again a short drive from Guildford. Albury is a biodynamic vineyard that produces a range of English Sparkling wines and the ever-popular Silent Pool Rosé. The team organise regular tours which people can buy tickets for on the Albury website, but it is also possible to drop in on Saturdays and have a full tasting for £5 (which is redeemable off the purchase of a bottle of sparkling wine). I met with owner Nick Wenman for a walk around the vines. Albury were hit badly by the late April frosts, reportedly losing up to 80% of buds. Despite this, the vines were looking a lot greener than I expected. The recent prolonged burst of sunshine has prompted a much needed second bud burst. Nick remains cautiously optimistic – the second growth of buds is a blessing, but it means the vines are now behind in development. The Albury vines will truly be in the hands of the weather gods, but these early signs are certainly promising. Afterwards I had a tasting of the new vintage Silent Pool Rosé 2016 and the Gold Medal winning Albury Estate Sparkling Rosé 2014 - both are superb fresh and clean examples of English Wine with delicate red berry flavours.
High Clandon Estate Vineyard
The final stop on my agenda was High Clandon Estate, a boutique vineyard that specialises in hand crafted English Sparkling wines that spend a minimum of 5 years on the lees. Saturday saw the launch of their annual Art & Sculptures in the Vineyard exhibition, which supports local charity Cherry Trees. It was also the official release of High Clandon’s first ever Sparkling Rosé Cuvée. The Aurora Cuvée Grand Vintage Rosé 2011 has already made the headlines by winning in International Wine Challenge 2017 Gold Medal. It’s a deliciously textured pale rosé with bright red fruit notes and elegant feminine charm. It was an absolute delight to walk around the gardens and vineyard with a glass of High Clandon rosé in hand, taking in the sights of the landscape and the sculptures. Likewise, it was great to meet owners Sybilla and Bruce, and hear such a passion for their English Sparkling enterprise. The sculpture exhibition will be open to the public until 5th June for a small £5 donation to Cherry Trees, full details can be found here.
What Else Is On In Surrey This Week?
There's lots more going on for English Wine Week in #Surrey, here are just a few of the highlights;
Thurs 1st June, Bel and the Dragon - Albury Supper Club
Fri 2nd June, Denbies Wine Estate - Wine & Cheese Walk
Sat 3rd June, Denbies Wine Estate - Wine & Cheese Walk
Sat 3rd June, Cellar Wines - Celebrate English Wine Week
Open Thurs-Sunday, Godstone Vineyards