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English wine is booming, and this Herefordshire vineyard is perfect for a vintage getaway

It’s the grape Great Britain! English wine is booming, and this Herefordshire vineyard is perfect for a vintage getaway

  • David Atkinson takes a tour of the Wythall Estate Vineyard in the Wye Valley
  • It stops at Coddington Vineyard, where the wines have a “fruity, floral flavor.”
  • English Wine Week, starting June 18, will celebrate 195 British wineries

Who would have thought that our homegrown wine could go from a quirky curiosity to a booming industry? But the start of English Wine Week on June 18 will celebrate the 195 wineries that produce 9 million bottles of English wine a year.

Wine tourism here jumped 57 per cent in 2020, according to Wines of Great Britain, reflecting an increase in domestic cellar visits and direct sales from the cellar door.

No one is suggesting that wine in places like the Wye Valley in the Welsh Marches will ever compete with those on the Route des Grands Crus in Burgundy. But Jamie McIntyre, owner of Wythall Estate Vineyard in rural Herefordshire, is ready, corkscrew in hand, to emphasize how the Wye Valley is “the perfect showcase for English wines”.

David Atkinson takes a tour of the Wythall Estate Vineyard in rural Herefordshire, set in the grounds of a 16th-century family estate.

David Atkinson takes a tour of the Wythall Estate Vineyard in rural Herefordshire, set in the grounds of a 16th-century family estate.

Wythall's award-winning Pinot Noir

Wythall’s award-winning Pinot Noir

The vineyard, located on the grounds of the 16th-century family estate, is just two miles from the historic market town of Ross-on-Wye. He grows four varieties, based on German stock, on his four acres, producing around 4,000 bottles per year. The Fruhburgunder grape produces Wythall’s Pinot Noir (£30 per bottle), which won gold at the 2022 Independent English Wine Awards.

Wild rabbits scamper through the vines and fallow deer cautiously emerge into the sunlight in the fields beyond as Jamie takes me on a tour.

‘The snobbery around English wine is gone. It is no longer a blind spot for wine drinkers,” he says as, afterward, we taste the wines in the wood-paneled dining room, the glasses engraved with the family crest dating back to the 16th century. Jamie’s wines are served alongside pints of Butty Bach at The Hostelrie gastropub in the nearby town of Goodrich.

I accompany a dinner of monkfish and chorizo, followed by plum compote with cold flan, with a glass of Jamie’s Sparkling Rose in the garden on a glorious early summer evening.

The next day I hit up Coddington Vineyard which, along with Wythall and Frome Valley Vineyards, is featured in a series of new self-guided wine tours in Herefordshire. I follow a rolling five-mile route from St James the Great Church in Colwall, then cross Coddington Vineyard for lunch before climbing Oyster Hill, the Malvern Hills and the town of Ledbury on the horizon.

Wythall Estate Vineyard is just two miles from the historic market town of Ross-on-Wye (pictured)

Wythall Estate Vineyard is just two miles from the historic market town of Ross-on-Wye (pictured)

David climbs the Malvern Hills (pictured) on a self-guided walking tour of Herefordshire.  The route takes you to the 'mature' winery of Coddington Vineyard

David climbs the Malvern Hills (pictured) on a self-guided walking tour of Herefordshire. The route takes you to the ‘mature’ winery of Coddington Vineyard

Coddington is one of the most mature wineries in the region, with three varietals, including two still whites and a sparkling Pinot Gris.

“You only get good wine from good grapes,” explains owner Peter Maiden, showing off his perfectly pruned rows of Ortega, grapes derived from the German Riesling strain.

“There’s a lot of coordination between the sugars and the acid.”

The vines began budding in May and will be in full bloom for English Wine Week, with harvest time bringing a flurry of activity to the sleepy rural site from October.

“It’s a labor of love but very satisfying,” says co-owner Sharon Maiden. “With longer summers and milder winters, our wines increasingly benefit from a fruity, floral flavor that makes them uniquely English.”

It’s hard to disagree. And what better way to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend than by raising a glass of new-generation English wine.

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