Archive for the ‘Wine’ Category

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.


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.


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.


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.

Kerry Vale Vineyard


During the recent Welsh Wine Week I visited two vineyards. More about the second vineyard soon but my first visit was to Kerry Vale Vineyard just south of Montgomery in border country near Offa’s Dyke.


However, just before you get there the border does a strange squiggle meaning that the vineyard is actually in England despite being surrounded on three sides by Wales with the border less than a mile away on all three sides. But the vineyard is a member of the Welsh Vineyards Association so that’s good enough for me.

Kerry Vale is a relatively new vineyard planted in 2010 on what was a four field site attached to a smithy. It is a family run business started by Geoff and June Ferguson who owned a caravan park nearby and were looking for another project to keep them busy. They got a consultant to have a look at the land and it was declared good for growing vines so they gave it a go. Daughter Nadine is also part of the project and many volunteers help out when it’s time to harvest the crop.

Harvest 2013 (9)

Geoff and June celebrating the 2013 harvest

There’s a lot of history in the area and interestingly they are sited on an old Roman fort – Pentreheyling Fort – as well as two marching camps and a large amount of pottery and coins have been found and this has influenced the names of some of their wines.

There are 6,000 vines planted over five acres using a Double Guyot system of trellising and the varieties are Rondo, Solaris and Phoenix. The wines are made at Halfpenny Green Winery in Staffordshire and there are four wines available at the moment.


There are two white wines in the range both made from Solaris. Shropshire Lady is a dry white made whilst Summer Days is medium dry. The Rare Hare is a rose made from Rondo and the name refers to a motif found on Roman pottery discovered on site. The Roman theme is also present in Red Denarri, a light red also made from Rondo.

These wines will be joined around November time by a sparkling wine made using Phoenix and that will be a good addition to their range.

Last summer saw the opening of a lovely shop and café. Light, airy and with a contemporary feel it offers light lunches, homemade cakes, hot and cold drinks and, of course, wine to taste and buy. This facility has also meant that they can provide corporate hospitality.

Visitor Centre

A number of different vineyard tours are available on weekends and bank holidays but remember to book in advance. Group tours are also welcome at different times during the week.

Shop interior

Although they may want to make their own wine at some point in the future they are currently concentrating on getting their wines into local quality establishments.

So, if you’re in the area make sure you pay them a visit to taste and buy some wine.

Welsh Wine Week 2014


Welsh Wine Week is about to get underway and it starts on Saturday 24 May. In a change from previous years there doesn’t seem to be an official launch, this is a shame as it was a great opportunity to jointly publicise the event. It also put all the events across Wales in one easy to find place.

welsh wine week

Nevertheless, there is one event that’s certainly worth a try taking place in Monmouthshire on 26 May. It is a tour and tasting trip of Ancre Hill and White Castle vineyards. For more details see here.

I’m hoping to visit two vineyards in Mid Wales. They are Kerry Vale near Churchstoke and Penarth Vineyard near Newtown. Full report on the blog soon.

So, take the opportunity and visit your local vineyard, there’s some good wine in Wales these days, and when better to taste our wines than during Welsh Wine Week.

Welsh Vineyard Association Awards 2013


The first ever Welsh Vineyard Association (WVA) Awards were held recently at Llanerch Vineyard in the Vale of Glamorgan. A total of 35 wines were entered and they were split into three classes – Still White or Rosé, Red, and Sparkling.

It’s great to see such a competition taking place, credible awards are very important for the drinks industry as it provides a lot of marketing collateral for the winners.

Were these awards credible? Yes, most certainly. You only have to look at the judging panel. It was chaired by Roger Jones, Michelin starred chef and senior judge at the Decanter World Wine Awards. He was joined by Bill Gunn, former Managing Director of the famous Champagne producer Pol Roger, and Julie Bell from the Felin Fach Griffin near Brecon.

Judging the awards

Judging the awards

The wines were blind tasted and marked using the same format as the Decanter awards.

One gold was awarded and that went to this month’s Drink of the Month – Ancre Hill Estates Sparkling Rosé 2009.

In the Still White or Rosé class two silvers were awarded both to Tintern Parva from Monmouthshire. One for their Bacchus 2011 and Bwthyn Rose 2011. I’ve tasted the latter and it’s a fantastic rosé. Five bronzes were also awarded.

The two silvers in the Red Wine Class both went to Ancre Hill Estates for their Pinot Noir’s of 2009 and 2011. No surprise there, great wines. Two bronzes were also awarded.

Finally, as well as picking up a gold award in the Sparkling Wine Class, Ancre Hill also got another silver for their Sparkling White 2008. As many as eight bronzes were awarded in what was the strongest class of wines.

Plenty of great Welsh wine on show and it’s a credit to the WVA for starting what should become a major date for Welsh wines and for starting big with a strong judging panel.

Welsh vineyard owners gather for the Awards

Welsh vineyard owners gather for the Awards

The chair spoke on behalf of the panel about the standard of Welsh wine stating that “We were very impressed with the entries and believe these wines should be judged not just against England but on the world scene.”

And this is exactly what will happen according to Richard Morris of Ancre Hill and chair of the WVA – “There is a massive opportunity for the Welsh industry to develop and our aim is to make this Welsh competition an international event, by making this an international competition Welsh wine by association will be recognised as world class.”

This is great but I do hope that, as part of such an international event, Welsh wines have their own category so that someone can say ‘we make the best wine in Wales’ each year.

The potential for Welsh wine was nicely encapsulated by Mr Morris “We are very excited about the future of the Welsh wine industry. We are in a similar position to that of the New Zealand industry 50 years ago which today has an export market worth one billion NZ dollars per annum and supports 20,000 jobs,” said Mr Morris.

For Welsh wine to get anywhere near this would be fantastic, but things are certainly going in the right direction these days. Pob lwc!

November Welsh Drink of the Month – Ancre Hill Estates: Sparkling Rose 2009 (11.5%abv)


Bubbly is synonymous with the upcoming party season and what better than a Welsh sparkling wine and a gold medal winner at that.

Ancre Hill Sparkling Rose 2009

The inaugural Welsh Vineyard Association awards were held recently, I’ll feature them later in the month, and Ancre Hill’s Sparkling Rose 2009 came out on top.

We’ve already tasted their Chardonnay, now for their brut (dry) sparkling rose made from two-thirds Pinot Noir and one-third Chardonnay grapes.

So, will we be serving up a Welsh sparkling wine this Christmas? As usual, you can leave your comments here on the blog and/or …

Join in the live tweetasting on Thursday 21 November between 9-10pm using #drinkswales

Drink of the Month June 2013: Ancre Hill Estates – Chardonnay 2010 (11% abv)


With Welsh Wine Week 2013 just coming to an end I thought it would be a good to build on this by featuring one of the wines from our growing wine industry.


Ancre Hill Estates is probably Wales’ leading vineyard and is based just outside the town of Monmouth. As mentioned in my previous blog post they won the prestigious Bollicine Del Mondo for their Sparkling White, a great win.

What’s more they follow biodynamic principles and are in the process of developing a winery that will be the first in Wales.

The 2010 Chardonnay is the result of great growing weather. Three-quarters of the wine was fermented in stainless steel with the reminder interestingly spending six months in French oak casks.

The French oak should add something to the flavour, we’ll see.

So, as ever, there are two ways to enjoy the drink of the month but both require a bottle of Ancre Hill Chardonnay 2010!

Drink it at your leisure and leave your comments here on the blog and/or …

Join in the live tweetasting on Thursday 13 June between 9-10pm using #drinkswales

Welsh Wine Week on the horizon


It’s almost time for Welsh Wine Week so I thought I’d have a look at wine in Wales.

Wine has a long history in Wales stretching back to Roman times. As would be expected from a crop that thrives in warmer climes, wine is mainly to be found in South Wales but there are vineyards in Mid, West and North Wales.

Glyndwr (3)

Glyndwr Vineyard, Vale of Glamorgan, one of the oldest in Wales.

But in comparison with other parts of the Welsh drinks industry, wine is less well developed and less well-known to most consumers.

As expected, climate plays a part, but there are other factors. Climate has historically meant that the lack of fruit sugars in the grapes has led to the need to add sugar, a technique known as chaptelisation. This practice can result in a loss in flavour and a thinness in the finished wine. This has a knock-on effect on quality and consumer perception.

Due to climate there has been a reliance on Germanic grape varieties with unfamiliar names which again does not aid consumer perception. In short Welsh wine has been a hard sell.

However, changes are afoot.

As the vineyards mature quality is improving and some winemakers are also planting more familiar varietals. Although not the oldest vineyard in Wales, Ancre Hill in Monmouthshire is now arguably our leading light. Recently their sparkling white won best white sparkling wine at the prestigious Bollicine Del Mondo awards in Italy beating such luminaries as Bollinger Champagne, an impressive feat.

For the Welsh wine industry as a whole this is fantastic and much needed.

Ancre Hill, Monmouthshire

Ancre Hill, Monmouthshire

To develop the Welsh wine industry further the key point to remember is that Wales is unlikely to be awash with Wine, it is always likely to be a relatively small-scale part of our drinks industry. Therefore learning from a similar country that has worked wonders with its wine industry – New Zealand – is a good place to start.

New Zealand is also a relatively small wine producing country so wine-makers there focused on quality rather than bulk production. The key to developing the industry in Wales is also to focus on driving up the quality of the wine. However, that’s only one side of the coin but it does have a crucial spin off which tackles a key barrier to growth – consumer perception.

Welsh wine needs to conquer a consumer who is unused to the idea that a Welsh wine is worthy of consideration. Changing consumer perception is absolutely fundamental and increased quality can have the spin-off of more award wins.

Award wins generate legitimacy and a perception of quality, more wins are needed and each one strongly trumpeted.

This is the other side of the coin – marketing. Marketing capacity needs to be stepped up. The successful new world countries have promotional boards of one sort of another that represent the industry as a whole. Wales needs something like this to move forward.

The fact that Welsh vineyards have recently joined together to form the Welsh Vineyards Association is a promising development and one that is long overdue.

Some of Wales' wine producers

Some of Wales’ wine producers

Richard Morris from Ancre Hill is the driving force and says “[T]here is a general public perception in the UK that we cannot make quality wines in Wales. That is incorrect because the quality of a lot of Welsh wines is very good, but we need much better promotion. There is no question about it, we are going to be much stronger by working together to create a reputation for quality wine in Wales. We need help with promoting our businesses.”

Similar sentiments have been expressed by Alun Davies AM the Minister for Natural Resources and Food who sees the potential in winemakers joining together as he says “[I]t is encouraging to see producers working together collectively to form a Welsh Vineyard Association. In terms of quality and potential, Welsh wine is certainly making a name for itself at home and abroad.”

Strong promotional activity that grabs every opportunity is needed and Welsh Wine Week is key. This year’s event is better promoted than in the past and had begun with greater coordination among the producers. This is a promising start.

Parva Farm Vineyard, Monmouthshire

Parva Farm Vineyard, Monmouthshire

Welsh Wine Week is a fantastic opportunity to get people to try Welsh wine and visit a vineyard but it could be more than that. It needs to be developed so that it both creates a buzz around the products and creates marketing collateral. I won’t go into my ideas here but suffice to say there are a number of things that could be done to further promote Welsh wine.

Welsh Wine Week runs from 26 May to 2 June, so what’s happening?

Well, Wine Trail Wales has been launched to promote wine tourism with a leaflet and a website.

Many of the 17 vineyards will be open to the public for tours and Blas ar Fwyd in Llanrwst is offering free delivery anywhere in Wales, until the end of June, for customers buying mixed half a case – six bottles – of Welsh wine.

So make sure you mark Welsh Wine Week by visiting a vineyard and buying some of our great wines.