Date Visited: Saturday 11th July 2015
Location: Albury, Surrey
Tour Price: £10.00
Located in the beautiful landscape of the Surrey Hills just outside Guildford, Albury Vineyard is the loving retirement project of former IT professional Nick Wenman. The vineyard was founded in 2008 with the first five acres of vines being planted in 2009. The land, owned by the Duke of Northumberland and forming part of his Albury Estate, has been leased by Nick and allowed him to achieve his dream of setting up an organic vineyard. Not content with just being Organic, as of 2012 the vineyard also gained Biodynamic status. In additional to the rigorous standards and restrictions of being Organic, the biodynamic status also brings in requirement for certain ground preparations and a synergy between earth, soil, vine and the cosmos. Nick also has plans to cultivate natural yeasts within the vineyard.
The chalk rich earth with clay-based topsoil and the hill-shielded valley provide the perfect environment for grape growing. With natural drainage and shelter from the wind, the only down side is that the vines are prone to frost damage in the cooler times of the year. Nick recalls nights when he has had to be out in the vineyard in the early hours of the morning placing candle burners throughout the vineyard to prevent the vines from frosting over. Apparently these early morning alarms don’t go down to well with his wife Linda – but it’s all for the love of the vineyard and the wine! Perhaps that’s why Nick has his eye on a special air vacuum machine, which sucks up and pumps out the cold air from the lower land in the vineyard?
With now 12 acres of vines planted (21,000 vines in total), the vineyard is made up of mostly of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Seyval Blanc vines, although a couple of rows of Pinot Gris have also been planted at the request of Linda. Apparently it’s her favourite grape variety, so it’s only fair considering all of those early morning vineyard disturbances!
This year is a very important year for Albury as it saw the official release of their first Sparkling wine. Albury Estate Premier Cuvee is that wine, it’s made from a blend of Seyval Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grapes harvested in 2011 and 2012. Impressively the Premier Cuvee has already picked up a Silver medal in the UKVA English and Welsh Wine of the Year Competition. This year has also seen the release of the UK’s first Pet-Nat (Petillant Naturel), a naturally sparkling wine made with minimum additives made sparkling through fermentation in the bottle. The wine was the result of a collaboration between Albury and biodynamic wine expert Monty Waldin, and I must say it's one of the most interesting English sparkling wines I've tried, certainly the most unique!
Albury is a grape-growing venture and has no winery, so the winemaking is outsourced to and handled by a couple of other businesses. The sparkling wines are handled by Mattieu Elzinger of Litmus Wines (based at Denbies). Mattieu, previously winemaker and MD of his families Winery in Muscadet has already gained my attention with the excellent Litmus Element 20 and Litmus White Pinot. The still wines are made by Ulrich Hoffmann of Vivid Wines, a multiple award winning contract winemaker based in West Sussex. Indeed, the partnership has gained Albury and Urlich another award this year, with the Silent Pool Rosé scooping a UKVA Gold Medal.
With just 1,500 bottles of the first sparkling wine release of the Albury Estate Premier Cuvee, Nick hopes to ramp up production to allow for 25,000-30,000 bottles of wine per year to be released. In addition to the Premier Cuvee and the established Silent Pool Rosé, a 2013 Classic Cuvee and also a Blanc de Blancs, which will be a blend of Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc, are on the away. These two wines will see a small winter release, with the full release taking place in the summer of next year. It's great to see a local vineyard thriving and gain national recognition in the form of awards and coverage; and as you can see from my tasting notes below, the wine's Albury are already producing are show great promise for things to come!
Albury Estate Sparkling, Premiere Cuvee NV
Grapes: Seyval Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay & Pinot Meunier Price: £28.99
A mix of the big 3 sparkling grapes, with some Seyval Blanc introduced, this is a blend of wine from both the 2011 and 2012 harvests. Grown in Surrey and produced by Matthieu Elziga of Litmus Wines via Denbies.
The first sparkling release from Albury is showing a lot of promise; classic notes of citrus, a little dry yeasty complexity with a fresh fruity gooseberry hint coming from the Seyval.
With 9g residual sugar, the palate is crisp and dry with tangy apples and slight hints of brioche and yeast.
Not quite as rich and intense as some of the other English Sparkling Wine’s out there; it is however light, clean and very drinkable.
What We Thought:
Monty's Pet-Nat 2014
Grapes: Chardonnay, Price: £20.00
The UK’s first ever Petillant Naturel, a natural organic wine. Only 600 bottles of this wine were produced.
This wine is 100% Chardonnay, bottled part way through fermentation allowing the naturally occurring CO2 to be absorbed by the wine and make it naturally sparkling.
Interesting fresh nose of citrus lemon and lime zest. Palate was very dry, with crisp fresh citrus flavours with crisp orchard apples and a very clean refreshing bite.
Only 9.5% alcohol, a refreshing summers drink with tart traditional lemonade like freshness combined with a crisp finish with hints of yeast and mineral.
What We Thought:
Silent Pool Rosé 2014
Grapes: Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier, Price: £14.99
English Rosé from Surrey, a blend of 62% Pinot Noir and 38% Pinot Meunier – 6000 bottle production.
Nose is fresh and clean, a mix of raspberries and strawberries, then a little zesty kick with cream and Provence style dried herb notes.
The palate is met with good acidity, citrus tang and then a smooth fruity mix of summer berries. Great mouthfeel with creamy mid taste, slight hints of vanilla and aftertaste of lemon with hints of minerality.
This is a Rosé that ticks all the boxes; refreshing, bone dry but still plenty of fruit character.
What We Thought:
Linda's Pinot 2014
Grapes: Pinot Gris & Pinot Noir, Price: £15.00
Made from a small parcel of Pinot Gris (66%) grapes, blended with 20% Pinot Noir and 14% Pinot Meunier to produce a very limited release of 220 bottles.
A lot to talk about on the nose with notes of stone fruit, pear, citrus and slight hints of red fruit from the red grapes.
Palate is a fruit mix of apricot, pear and apple with a really smooth creamy texture. Fermented in old oak, which has induced a slight mysterious smokiness to the overall texture and flavour of the wine.
What We Thought: