It’s great to see an English Wine story evolve. Last July I made my first visit to an English Vineyard as Great British Wine, that vineyard was Greyfriars in Puttenham, Surrey. Owned by Mike & Hillary Wagstaff, it’s fantastic to see the difference just a single year has made since my first visit. As well as an expanding state of the art winery, new buildings housing riddling and disgorgement equipment, a soon to be delivered Italian bottling line, team Greyfriars have received mainstream media coverage and earned a series of national and international awards for their wines.
Whilst I’ve visited Greyfriars several times now over the last year for various tasting events and tours, this was my first attendance of one of their famous open days. It’s an opportunity to meat the team, to try all of the latest wines and to have a walk around the beautifully maintained vines. It was a wonderful time to visit the vineyard, with the vines in flower and, thankfully, a break in what has been a rather damp period of English summer weather. Mike explains that despite the challenges of this year so far he is very optimistic for this year’s harvest. Whilst they had the bougie candles on standby during those couple of weeks of late springtime frost, that they had been extremely lucky and not been hit by the sort of frost damage that has affected other vineyards, and areas of France in particular.
Of course, I had to discuss the recent coverage they have received in both this month’s Decanter panel tasting and their annual World Wine Awards. Greyfriars scooped two Silver Medals for their flagship English Sparkling Wines of Blanc de Blancs 2013 (92 Points) and Rosé Reserve Brut 2013 (90 Points). In an increasingly crowded sector English Blanc de Blancs, there’s just something so rich and different about the Greyfriars’ that it never fails to put a smile on my face. It’s certainly one for the oak lovers, and to balance that an unoaked Blanc to Blancs has recently been released, along with a Classic Cuvée blend, which is already proving popular. These are both great wines too, but for me the Oaked BdB is certainly the wine to head straight for! It’s just so rounded and developed, which is super impressive for what is a relatively youthful Blanc de Blancs.
So what else is new for Greyfriars? A 400,000-bottle capacity chalk cave is currently in the final stages of construction. Then there was another highlight of the tasting: the Sparkling Fumé, which is made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes. It’s believed to be the only of its kind in England right now, and the wine is suitably different. Last year saw the very limited release of a couple of hundred bottles of 2014 Sparkling Fumé, whilst this year’s release is 2000 bottles and is a blend of wines from different harvests with zero dosage. The resulting wine is more developed and flavoursome; vibrant and fresh with some lovely gooseberry, grassy and English hedgerow notes. As Mike puts it, it’s the perfect English sparkling wine for the summer – assuming the English summer does finally arrive!
A new 2015 vintage of Greyfriars’ medal winning Pinot Gris is on the way too, I had a sneak peak of this a month or so back and it’s rather lovely! I sipped on a glass of the existing 2014 vintage (pictured in the headline image in this article) as I had a walk around the vineyard with my wife, contemplating just how proud Mike, Hillary and the Greyfriars team must feel after such a stellar year so far!
Check back soon for reviews of Greyfriars most recent releases, including the Sparkling Fumé and Unoaked Blanc de Blancs, in the coming weeks on GreatBritishWine.com
- 40 Acres
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