Turning Rainwater into Wine
More famed for its cuts of lamb or the dairy produce it exports, the climate and landscape does not obviously lend itself to viticulture. Yet Wales has a surprising pedigree in fermenting grapes, with the first recording of producing it in 78AD when the Roman’s arrived in town.
Wales is now part of an emerging group of European wine producers which includes Denmark and even Scotland that are producing excellent niche wines. To see how these intrepid locals turn rainwater into around 100,000 bottles of wine per year, we paid a visit to two of the best local producers at Llanerch and Glyndwr vineyards.
First up was Glyndwr, named after the Welsh Prince Owain Glyndwr. The modest 6-acre site houses 6,000 vines which produce a signature White from its Reichensteiner and Seyval Blanc varieties. Our host Richard took us on a thoroughly enjoyable 2-hour tour where he talked about how the topography and geology was perfectly suited to the grape varieties before finishing with a smorgasbord of locally produced foods comprising of the more familiar cheese and cuts of meat one would expect of Wales.
Llanerch had been a place I’d wanted to visit for some time and to really put Welsh wine to the test we visited with some proud New Zealanders who really knew their wine. We ordered the Cariad Sparkling Brut (Cariad being the Welsh word for love) and it soon turned out that our Antipodean guests scepticism was unjustified; the wine was the perfect accompaniment to the main course of pan fried cod fillet served on crushed Pembrokeshire potatoes.
Geology and soil composition are key factors in viticulture and here lies part of the Welsh success story. The fresh and unspoilt soils being key to a taste that in time will become part of Wales’ foodie trail. Local foodie capital Abergavenny is close by, the pastures of the Brecon Beacons and beyond a short drive away, and the bounty of the sea all makes for a perfect gourmet spot.
In the Welsh language white wine translates as Gwin gwyn, a suitably poetic sound for a country that is usually drunk on its poetry instead. Suitable also that a country which speaks one of Europe’s oldest languages with a 2,000 year heritage, should so capably and skilfully re-discover a 2,000 year-old-craft.
You can sample Welsh wine yourself by finding it in John Lewis stores, visiting their websites or visiting the vineyards themselves:
Llanerch Vineyard – http://www.llanerch-vineyard.co.uk/
Call +44 (0) 1443 222716 or visit them at: Hensol, Vale of Glamorgan CF72 8GG. The Cariad Bistro and Cariad Restaurant are open daily, advanced booking is recommended.