Penarth Estate Vineyard

Penarth Fawr sits on the banks of the River Severn about a mile to the east of Newtown. The house dates from the fifteenth century and is a beautiful ‘black and white’ timber framed house so typical of Montgomeryshire.

Bernard Herbert, who hails from Shropshire, his wife Tanya, from the USA and their children came to Penarth Fawr in the late 90s after selling their restaurant business in the US. They wanted a better life for their children as well as an opportunity for Bernard to have a go at his hobby of growing vines to make wine.

This interest came from a number of trips to see vineyards all over the world, opportunities that came due to their wine bar and restaurant businesses in London. So began Penarth Estate.

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Bernard’s philosophy is to plant vines that are known for their quality and that’s why he decided to plant the Champagne varietals Pinot Noir, Chardonnay a Pinot Meunier. Some argued that they wouldn’t grow that far north but a small crop was harvested in 2002. Since then there have been more plantings and the vineyards now cover 3 hectares.

Most of the vineyard has been planted with the Champagne varietals but there are others for experimentation such as Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Rondo, Sauvignon Blanc and more.

The most interesting thing about the vineyard is the approach to making wine. Rather than decide to make a certain wine each year Bernard works with the climate.

In an average year they only make sparkling wine. They have three sparkling wines in the range all made in the traditional method, the same method that’s used for Champagne. One of the sparkling wines is made from a mix of the Champagne grapes, one is a rosé and the other is a ‘blanc de blanc’ style, that is a sparkling wine made from Chardonnay.

People started to sit up and take notice at the end of the 00s when their sparkling wine won an award from the famous wine magazine Decanter. Since then their sparkling rosé has also won an award.

In a year with a good harvest they make still wine but in a bad year the grapes are turned into a brandy, the only grape brandy in Wales.

Three Choirs and Halfpenny Green make the wine whilst the Brandy is distilled in Ludlow.

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Having businesses in London is a great help as they provide a ready route to market. There they sell their sparkling wines whilst the still wines are kept more for the local market. The sparkling wines are available locally too of course.

There aren’t any plans to increase the acreage as the next step would be to sell via supermarkets. This would mean a big step in terms of production but, because they are competitive on price, the profit from doing this isn’t worth it in Bernard’s opinion.

Nevertheless there are interesting plans for the future. At the moment a maturing warehouse is being built from straw bales covered by a lime wash. This interesting design will keep this ‘cellar’ at around 10˚C all year round. Finally, there are plans to build a winery so that they can make their wine on site.

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It is possible to visit the vineyard on occasion but prospective visitors need to make an appointment to arrange a visit. However, the wines are available in the lovely deli Quinces of Newtown.

Having had good weather in 2013 we might be able to expect some interesting wines available this year, the decision on what kind of wines to bottle is about to be made, we’ll see shortly what will be the Penarth Estate vintage 2013.

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