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Best Surrey wine and vineyards - Albury, Denbies, Godstone, Greyfriars, High Clandon and Painshill

PUBLISHED: 08:32 10 November 2015 | UPDATED: 10:14 10 November 2015

Albury Organic Vineyard, Albury

Albury Organic Vineyard, Albury

These days, everyone knows that Surrey wine is on the march, but here’s a few things that you probably didn’t know about our increasingly successful vineyards...

Walker in the vines at Denbies (Photo: Andy Newbold) Walker in the vines at Denbies (Photo: Andy Newbold)

Originally published in April 2015

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Albury Organic Vineyard

Albury

Name:  Nick Wenman

Role: Founder and owner

When was the vineyard founded?

I've been a wine lover since my late teens and always dreamt of owning my own vineyard. I took the Higher Certificate of Wines and Spirits when I was only 20. I had a successful career in IT, which I retired from in 2006 at the age of 50, allowing me to fulfil my dream. I met master of wine, Stephen Skelton, in 2007. He convinced me that it was possible to produce great wines in England on a commercially viable basis. We found a perfect site near to my home in Albury and the vineyard was planted in 2009 and 2010. There are 21,000 vines on five hectares of land, which are predominately, the Champagne varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

Where did you seek your inspiration?

English sparkling wines are now world leaders in producing quality sparkling wines, winning numerous international competitions. English vineyards like Nyetimber, Ridgeview and Camel Valley have produced inspirational sparkling wines. I was keen to follow organic practices and Will Davenport at Davenport Vineyards convinced me that this was viable in the UK.

What is your proudest achievement to date?

Our very first wine, Silent Pool Rosé 2011, was chosen to be served on the Royal Barge as part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Since then it has also been sold at the Royal Opera House and featured last year at the Epsom Derby weekend.

Tell us about your signature product…

Up until now Silent Pool Rosé has been our signature product and always sells out within a few months of its release. It is a fairly dry still Rosé, with summer fruit flavours, made from the Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. This year we will be releasing our first quality sparkling wine, Albury Estate Premier Cuvée, which was made from our first vintages in 2009 and 2010. 

What is the most rewarding thing about running a vineyard?

Viticulture is hard work but also great fun. It’s incredibly rewarding producing your own product from start to finish, especially when you achieve great results. I’ve met some lovely people in the process, not least my vineyard manager, Alex Valsecchi, who is invaluable. Of course, drinking your own wine is also special.

Tell us something people probably don’t know about your vineyard/wines…

As well as being organic, Albury Organic Vineyard follows ‘biodynamic’ practices, which promote the holistic inter- relationships between the soil, the plants and the animals, as well as the more subtle rhythms associated with the moon, the sun and the planets. Special manure and herb-based preparations are also applied.

What does the future hold?

The future for quality English wines is very exciting. We will remain focused on producing great organic wines from the Surrey Hills. This year we will be opening the vineyard to the public for tours and tastings - details will be available on our website.

• See alburyvineyard.com

 

Denbies Wine Estate

Dorking

Named: Duncan McNeil

Role:  Vineyard manager

When was the vineyard founded?

The Denbies Estate has been family owned and run since 1984. Denbies vineyard was planted in 1986, and since then has become one of the largest wine producers in the UK.

Where did you seek your inspiration?

The site was selected predominantly for the geology and soil type, as it is very similar to that found in the Champagne region. Over the years, however, the character of the site has grown into something unique. There are pockets of different microclimates and soil types within the vineyard, and this is evident in the wines. Denbies is a very good example of a vineyard with its very own terroir.

What is your proudest achievement to date?

Denbies wine was served at the opening of the Channel Tunnel in 1994, which was a huge accolade; a momentous occasion represented by English wine. Denbies has been honoured to welcome The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh in 1986 and more recently The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall in 2011. Also in 2011, Denbies Chalk Ridge Rose 2010 was awarded gold at the International Wine Challenge. England was one of 21 countries to submit a wine in the still rosé category for which there were 367 entries. This is the only gold award achieved in the still rosé category and an unprecedented achievement for an English wine. 

Tell us about your signature product…

Our Cubitt Reserve Sparkling is an excellent example of cool climate sparkling wine using the traditional grape varieties, grown on chalky soil. We are also starting to produce some first class still wines from the noble varieties, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and now Sauvignon Blanc. This is combination of warmer growing seasons producing riper fruit, and a great deal of expertise in the winemaking process. Geographically speaking, we are working right at the margins of where it is possible to cultivate grapes. In some years this can become very challenging, but it can also produce outstanding and unique wines, especially in a great vintage like 2014. The 2014 Pinot Gris is currently showing some wonderfully complex flavours, as is the Sauvignon Blanc and the Bacchus. After the prolonged Indian summer weather we had in September last year, conditions enabled the production of a ‘sticky’ desert style wine made from the variety Ortega. These are wines with a style that would not be replicated elsewhere in the world, and this uniqueness is something that we celebrate.   

What is the most rewarding thing about running a vineyard?  

Being in touch with the rhythm of the seasons. It is great to be constantly reminded that ultimately nature still dictates much of happens in our work. Also, contributing to a local product which is genuinely world class; this makes me feel very proud.

Tell us something people probably don’t know about your vineyard/wines…

The vineyard also hides a wartime secret: there are World War Two tanks buried here. We are currently looking into the possibility of excavating the site this year.

What does the future hold for your vineyard?

Establishing the new vines that have been planted over the last two years. This required a large investment, which must now be consolidated. The early years are the most important in the life of a vineyard, as this is when the plants must be allowed to develop well and not be rushed into production too soon. Methods of grape growing are progressing all the time, and Denbies constantly evaluates new ideas. Because of the different ‘terroirs’ on the vineyard, there are a number of different practices in place, depending on the soil, altitude, aspect and the intended wine style for the fruit grown in a particular vineyard parcel.

• See denbies.co.uk

 

Godstone Vineyards

Godstone

Name:  Jonathan Deeley

Role:  Business development manager

When was the vineyard founded?

The vineyard was planted in 1985 and our first harvest took place in 1988. At that time the main business was mixed farming, mainly fruit, beef, and cereals. We analysed our weaknesses and realised that some land was unsuitable for these farming practices. We owned a field which, in the mid 1960s had been a hop garden. After much discussion and research, we concluded that this was the ideal site for a vineyard: a south-facing slope which attracts maximum sunshine, upper greensand soil overlying chalk very similar to the Champagne region.

Where did you seek your inspiration?

The only commercial vineyards in the mid-1980s were centred upon Kent, so most of our advice/inspiration was derived from Lamberhurst.

What is your proudest achievement to date?

Our proudest achievement to date has been witnessing the acceptance of English wine as a quality product. In the 1980s and 1990s it wasn't always easy to attract anything other than purchases based upon curiosity, whereas nowadays our wines are internationally recognised for their outstanding quality.

Tell us about your signature product…

Our signature wine is a sparkling, produced solely from Seyval Blanc grapes; all of which have been hand picked. At harvest any grape which does not meet our strict quality criteria is rejected. 

What is the most rewarding thing about running a vineyard?  

During the month of May, walking to the very top of the vineyard, seeing the vines bursting into life; hearing the birdsong, especially our resident pheasants; breathing in the aroma of the fresh grass and hedgerows, and knowing that five months later our vines will hopefully produce a gorgeously crisp, acidic wine which will reflect the unique terroir of Godstone Vineyards.

Tell us something people probably don’t know about your vineyard/wines…

Caves under Godstone Vineyards were once used as a bonded warehouse for liquor during World War Two; however, these are no longer safe and are now closed off to the public.

What does the future hold for your vineyard?

The future is quite straightforward: we will remain a small-scale wine producer with the sole intention of crafting exceptional quality English wines. We can never compete on price (Duty alone counts for almost £3 per bottle) so we have to compete on quality. We are planting new trees and hedges all around the estate, with the sole intention of making ourselves a truly beautiful experience for visitors. We are committed to improving and enhancing our environment. We wish to compare ourselves with all the leading retail/leisure operators.

• See godstonevineyards.com

 

Greyfriars Vineyard

Puttenham

Name: Mike Wagstaff

Role: Owner (with my wife, Hilary)

When was the vineyard founded?

The half hectare original vineyard at Greyfriars was planted in the late 1980s as an eccentric experiment by the previous owners who were vets and had their practice on the site. They started making still wine but migrated to sparkling after the Millennium. This proved that great grapes could be grown on the site which we have now expanded from ‘hobby’ to a full scale commercial vineyard. The vineyard is situated on the south facing chalk slopes of the Hog’s Back just outside Guildford at Puttenham. The name derives from its proximity to the North Downs Way, which runs along the edge of the vineyard.

Where did you seek your inspiration?

Like many English vineyards we are focusing on making sparkling wine using the traditional Champagne grape varieties because our geology and climate mean we can produce world class sparkling wine.

What is your proudest achievement to date?

Our two greatest achievements to date were winning medals in several prestigious wine competitions for our very first wine release, a 2011 Sparkling Rosé, and having David Cameron taste our wine at a Surrey food and drink reception at the Houses of Parliament in November last year.

Tell us about your signature product…

That’s an unfair question! It’s like asking parents which is their favourite child. We have released small numbers of different wines to date but they have all been extremely well received. The exciting thing for us is that each vintage is getting better as we learn more about the vineyard and its idiosyncrasies and we see the benefits of our investments in the winery paying off. In particular, we are extremely pleased with the wine from the 2014 vintage but unfortunately that won’t be released until 2016 at the earliest.

What is the most rewarding thing about running a vineyard?  

The opportunity for us to build a family business from scratch and to be part on an exiting new industry in this country.

Tell us something people probably don’t know about your vineyard/wines…

Many people don’t realise the amount of hard work and dedication that goes into producing a bottle of fizz. It takes between two and five years from harvesting the grapes to releasing a bottle of sparkling wine for sale. Definitely not a business to be in if you want instant gratification.

What does the future hold for your vineyard?

This year we will finish planting which will bring us up to about 50 acres under vine on three sites. Once we are at peak production around 2020 we should be producing 100,000 bottles a year. Up to this point we have had tiny volumes of wine for sale so we are excited that 2015 should mean that Greyfriars is more widely available as we start to release wines produced from the vines we have planted.

• See greyfriarsvineyard.co.uk

 

 

High Clandon Estate Vineyard

Clandon Downs

Name: Sibylla Tindale

Role: Co-owner with husband Bruce Tindale

When was the vineyard founded?

In 2004, when we found this amazing site in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at High Clandon. It has the same geological stratum as that of the Champagne region and, coinciding with our deep interest in wines and champagnes and the reputation of trail-blazing English winemakers crafting superb English sparkling wines, that was a ‘Eureka’ moment. Let’s plant our ‘Champagne-style’ vineyard in this unforgiving chalky hillside! 

Where did you seek your inspiration?

Sparkling wine is the flagship style of wine for a cooler climate vineyard, and it is something we adore - most people do, as it’s so celebratory! We know that we only want to produce a quality vintage and matured Cuvées and have focused on doing only that! We hope to be winning many awards in due course.

What is your proudest achievement to date?

Our launch parties, which are garden parties held in our gardens and vineyard. They feature a ‘sabreur’, a dramatic slicing off of the cork with a sword! Last year’s launch of our 2009 vintage Cuvées was a particular delight as we hosted a Sculptures in the Vineyard exhibition showcasing noted Surrey Hills artists’ works. Then we had the absolute delight, complete and unexpected surprise to hear that we had been nominated by an array of mystery admirers for the 2014 Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards and resulted in being a finalist. This year, we will go further and hope to make our Sculptures in the Vineyard a unique annual event in the Surrey summer calendar - and will tie that in with support for an amazing charity, Cherry Trees, who provide respite support and care for disabled children in East Clandon.

Tell us about your signature product…

Our High Clandon Cuvées, both the 2008 and 2009 vintages which we call Quintessence of England, have had superb rankings and comments from the renowned JancisRobinson.com champagne specialist, Richard Hemming, and also Derek Smedley, master of wine. Our High Clandon Ultra Cuvée 2009 vintage Ultra-Brut achieved 17.5 points and Derek gave it (using a different Parker-style points scale) of 93.

What is the most rewarding thing about running a vineyard?  

Undoubtedly, the people we meet. They love to explore wines, and taste our Quintessence. It is always a delight to see their expression, a moment of joy when they sip that culmination of five years hard work concentrated in a flute.

Tell us something people probably don’t know about your vineyard/wines…

High Clandon Estate cuvées sold out in the first year of launch and, unfortunately, became so desirable that in March of this year we suffered the biggest heist in English wine history, with all the remaining stock of their 2009 vintage stolen (with some claiming it has been ‘exported’ to Anglophile countries in Europe or Asia).

What does the future hold for your vineyard?

We hope to encourage the burgeoning English wine industry to agree a unique term to describe our magnificent English sparkling wines – a term for English ‘Champagnes’. Here at High Clandon, we have pioneered the term Quintessence of England and hope that it will be used more widely. We adore what we do. We will continue to produce our succulent, full bodied and five-year-matured Quintessences of England using the classic Champagne grape varieties, grown in the rolling downs of the Surrey Hills.

• See highclandon.co.uk

 

Painshill Vineyard

Cobham

Name: Mark Ebdon

Role: Painshill estate manager

When was the vineyard founded?

The original Painshill vineyard was created by the Honourable Charles Hamilton. It flourished between approximately 1740 and 1812 became a main feature within his 18th century landscape garden.

Where did you seek your inspiration?

The Painshill Vineyard was restored on the south facing slopes in 1992/1993 as part of the overall restoration of the landscape garden. I wasn’t an expert so I went on a fact finding mission to other vineyards to carry out my research.

With the help of others including volunteers, two and a half acres were replanted with the Pinot Noir cultivar planted by Charles Hamilton, plus Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc hybrids – to reproduce Hamilton’s sparkling wine. Most of the vineyard uses modern trellising; the last three vines at the bottom of each row demonstrate the original single pole Burgundian style.

What is your proudest achievement to date?

Probably when the first full crop was harvested in 1998, it was a real achievement. It had taken over five years to get to this stage. Within this time I had learnt a lot, like not taking the crop too early and building a strong root system for future harvests.

I also feel very proud that we have been praised for the quality of the grapes. We are fortunate that the vineyard is on a south facing slope with light reflected off the lake; which is very good for developing the sugar content in the grapes. We managed to produce five tonnes of quality grapes during our last harvest in 2014.

Tell us about your signature product…

We only produce two wines, Hamilton Sparkling Rosé and Hamilton Sparkling Blanc. My personal favourite is the elegant sparkling rosé. Crisp, fresh and fruity, this sparkling wine gives a hint of strawberries and blackberries on the nose and a lovely citrus palate.

What is the most rewarding thing about running a vineyard?  

When the grapes are picked and loaded on the truck I breathe a sigh of relief. I feel all the worrying and effort was worth it as yet again we have managed to harvest a decent crop of quality grapes. It is a real team effort as all the grapes are hand picked. We have an amazing team of volunteers who help us every year.

Tell us something people probably don’t know about your vineyard/wines…

Records show that Painshill Vineyard was planted with six different cultivars by 1750. Later, in 1775, the Honourable Charles Hamilton wrote of planting entirely with two Burgundian varieties: Auvernat Pinot Noir and Miller Pinot Meunier. The first pressing and part of the second produced such excellent sparkling wine that its quality deceived the French Ambassador into believing it “un vrai Champagne”.

What does the future hold for your vineyard?

The vineyard is an important feature in the 18th century landscape garden and makes it historically correct. It is one of the first viewpoints of Hamilton’s historic route. We will also continue to harvest the grapes for the production of Painshill Sparking Wine to sell in our shop.

• See painshill.co.uk

 

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Find your local Surrey vineyard:

• Albury Organic Vineyard,Weston Lodge, The Street, Albury, Surrey GU5 9AE: 07768 863650 Web: www.alburyvineyard.com

• High Clandon Estate Vineyard, Clandon Downs, High Clandon, Surrey GU4 7RP: 01483 210125 Web: www.highclandon.co.uk

• Denbies Wine Estate, London Road, Dorking, Surrey RH5 6AA: 01306 876616 Web: www.denbiesvineyard.co.uk

• Greyfriars Vineyard, Hogs Back, Guildford, Surrey GU3 1AG:01483 813712Web: www.greyfriarsvineyard.com

• Godstone Vineyard, Quarry Road,Godstone, Surrey RH9 8DQ: 01883 744590 Web: www.godstonevineyards.com

• The Iron Railway Vineyard, London Road North, Merstham, Surrey RH1 3AA: 01737 551829

• Painshill Park Vineyard, Portsmouth Road, Cobham, Surrey KT11 1JE: 01932 868113 Web: www.painshill.co.uk

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