I’ve said it before; the thing I enjoy most about exploring the English Wine industry is meeting the people behind the wines. We recently had the pleasure of staying down in Penzance thanks to a generous invite from Kim and John Coulson, owners of Polgoon. For anyone that fancies a trip to West Cornwall, the Coulson’s holiday cottage is perfectly located. Situated a short 15 minute walk from the beautiful Penzance coastline, the cottage offers three generous bedrooms with plenty of living space to make yourself comfortable. The vineyard is situated just behind the cottage and the winery and shop is just around the corner – so a bottle or delicious local wine (or cider) is never far away!
John and Kim bought the site in 2002 after working for many years as fish merchants. Much of the land was derelict for ten years prior, and had formerly been used as a flower bulb farm. Bob Lindo of Camel Valley visited in 2003 and confirmed the site was a great location for a vineyard. He did however offer advice on the harsh reality of growing grapes in Cornwall. Whilst the site has natural shelter, a great microclimate and the proximity to the sea means frost damage risk is low, the region’s relentless rain poses a high risk. Ready for the challenge, the Coulson’s ordered 3,500 vines from Germany, which were planted the following spring time in 2004. Initial plantings were of Rondo, Pinot Noir Précoce, Seyval Blanc and Ortega.
It was John and Kim’s determination that resulted in quick reward after a great first harvest in 2006. Winemaking for the first vintage was handled by Sam Lindo, and went on to achieve the Best Still Rosé Trophy in the UKVA awards the following year. Despite a great start, the following harvest of 2007 was disastrous due to the tremulous Cornish weather that Bob had warned of. This weather did bring about a significant step forwards for Polgoon though. The yields were so low in 2007 that John set about making the wines himself. 2008 and 2009 were tough due to a combination of weather, limited knowledge and a steep learning curve. The Coulson’s relentless determination also saw them look to apples as a backup to the wine business. This was significant as, volume wise, cider has formed the backbone of the Polgoon operation, and has gone on to win many awards.
Back to the wine, I have to say that John is a fascinating person to meet. Just a couple of weeks prior to our visit, he had been in for a hip replacement. The doctors told John to get plenty of rest, but that wasn’t going to stop him ambling around the vineyard and winery! He’s a self-taught winemaker through studying a huge amount of books, internet resources and shared knowledge from other producers. Because of Polgoon’s early foray into actually making the wines themselves, the steep learning curve has actually been pivotal to their success. It forced John to adapt and develop his winemaking principles based on what can actually be done in Cornwall with wine. As such, a growing range of precise and expressive still and sparkling wines have been formed. The signature of these is delicate and clean English fruit expression.
Whilst touring the winery, John invites us to sample wine from the tank from the 2016 harvest. The first is the Seyval Blanc 2016, the base wine for sparkling exhibiting punchy acidity and vibrant zesty fruit with pear and green apple flavours. Next was the Bacchus 2016 with its rich elderflower and grapefruit nose. A superbly focussed palate with lots of green fruit and grapefruit tang followed by grassy tones and mineral length. Finally, we sampled a surprisingly deep ruby red made from the 2016 Rondo. Presently unoaked, this magenta rimmed beauty was full of dark fruit; blackcurrant and bramble fruit with hints of peppery spice.
It was great to sample these delicious wines in progress, and as if that wasn’t enough the biggest treat was yet to come. A winemaker’s lunch of the most delicious local Cornwall crab sandwiches with platters of cheese and meat. To pair the fine food and conversation with John, Kim and the Polgoon team, two of the vineyard's finest wines – the Madeleine Angevine 2014 and Pinot Noir Sparkling Rosé 2014. Full tasting notes can be found below for these wines – but I have to say the crab sandwiches with a squeeze of lemon were the most delicious pairing with the Madeliene. So much so that my plate and glass were both empty far too quickly – though quickly replenished with more. There’s nothing better than sitting alongside a vineyard, with the producers, tasting local food and wine. I leave feeling that the Coulson’s are really onto a winner with Polgoon. The quality of the wines is superb, and their location on the A30, the main route through Penzance, ensures a strong footfall from both new and returning visitors.
Polgoon’s Vine House Kitchen is now open at lunchtime Wendesday to Saturday until the end of August, you can find out more on the Polgoon website here.
- 15 Acres
Madeleine Angevine 2014
GRAPES: Madeleine Angevine RRP: £15
One of the standout wines from our Spotlight Tasting on Madeleine Angevine earlier in the year, it was great to have a chance to re-taste this wine at the vineyard.
A very floral nose with aromas of elderflower, lemon, jasmine tea and dried herb.
Such pure and clean flavours with refreshing lemon citrus profile and herbaceous and mineral notes.
Tasted with local crab sandwiches and a squeeze of lemon juice, this felt like the ultimate Cornish food and wine pairing!
Where to Buy: Polgoon
Pinot Noir Rosé Sparkling 2014
GRAPES: Pinot Noir RRP: £30
A delicate and pale pink tinted sparkling rosé made only from Pinot Noir.
This wine has lovely red fruit aromas of raspberry and cherry.
To taste, it’s crisp and refreshing up front with a deliciously soft English summer fruit mid taste.
Lots of tangy red apple and red currant character and a strikingly fresh finish, this rosé drinks beautifully both with and without food.
Where to Buy: Polgoon
Seyval Blanc & Ortega 2015
GRAPES: Seyval Blanc & Ortega RRP: £15
This is an unusual blend of two of Polgoon’s white grapes; Ortega and Seyval Blanc, which has been lightly oaked for texture.
A very aromatic wine, with notes of honeysuckle, ripe stone fruit and butterscotch.
On the palate, this white blend is silky smooth and creamy with luxurious ripe fruit flavours of peach and apricot. Slightly floral, hints of viscous texture with toffee notes and a greener citrus finish.
For a wine that remains fresh and light, there are some surprisingly full textures.
Where to Buy: Polgoon