Wales and wine is not, perhaps, two words that a lot of people would put together, but it is fair to say that Welsh wine has come on in leaps and bounds (particularly the sparkling wine, but the still stuff is catching up) over the last few years, winning multiple awards as against the stiffest of oppositions.
After a very successful Welsh Wine Night in April, there is now a Welsh Wine Week (27rd July to 3rd August) and to celebrate this event local wine merchant, vineyard owner, fellow Mystere Wine Club member and all round good egg, Gilbert Viader, arranged a tasting of some of the rather fine selection of Welsh wines Viader Vintners has “on offer” to the general public.
My contribution (always like to pay my way and my far from insightful comments would have left Gilbert seriously short changed) was a bottle of Chardonnay from, acclaimed Welsh winery, Ancre Hill Estate. The remaining wines were a rather intriguing selection of red and white wines from the North, East and the West of Wales, with 1 from Llandudno Junction, 1 from Aberaeron and 4 (including my Ancre Hill Estate Chardonnay) from Monmouthshire.
Picture courtesy of Viader Vintners
Myself, Robbie Priddle (of Great British Wines) and Mitchell Young tasted and commented on the wines live on Viader Vintner’s Facebook feed (wish had had my hair cut). Video is still up I believe.
In addition to my verbal rambles online, here are my no less rambling written thoughts as to these wines
Pydew, Gwinllan Conway Vineyard, 2018
A wine from up North (Wales) made from a blend of Ortega and Phoenix grapes.
Quite pale colouration to this wine,
with the nose giving off elderflower initially but developing in the glass to give off quite a bit of mint (spearmint I would say).
On the palate, there was lots of acidity with crisp citrus note. Not quite lemon or grapefruit, more a citrus hybrid (rather apt with the grapes used) with uglifruit coming to mind. Bit short on length will the citrus not persisting long on the palate.
Drink on its own as an appetif or with a soft goats cheese – a Jebel maybe.
Renaissance, Pen y Clwadd Vineyard, 2018
First vintage from this winery, which is owned by Gilbert and Clare Viader. First impressions were what a lovely label – really striking and one that certainly draws the eye. It is the work of a family member, who clearly has a real talent for this sort of thing.
I know what is inside the bottle is the important thing, but marketing is a vital consideration for a new wine and this looks the business. Sort of label that makes you double take and want to have a closer look (i.e. pick up the bottle) – half the battle won there I would say.
So to the all important what is in the bottle, with it being a blend of Reichensteiner, Phoenix & Schönburger grapes.
In the glass it was a pretty pale colour, quite neutral
On the nose there was bags of character, with punchy herbal notes (big hit of dill) as well as fennel and (at least to my nose) tomato leaf. Very aromatic.
On the palate it was less expressive than the nose, but had a bracing acidity that made it very refreshing. As it lingered on the palate (good length to this wine) it left pleasing citrus notes.
I would drink this with seafood. A plate of juicy crevettes or gambas al ajillo perhaps.
Rather enjoyed this – chapeau Gilbert!
Chardonnay, Ancre Hill Estate, 2018
This wines is made on a full biodynamic basis, with significant time left on the lees and no filtration – all very on trend these days.
Unsurprisingly, with the use of the Chardonnay grape and no filtration of this wine, the colour was much deeper than the Pydew or the Renaissance. Golden with a touch of green and a distinct haziness to it.
Lovely rich nose, with baked apples and vanilla. Almost apple crumble and custard I thought.
On the palate it was crisp and really precise stuff, like a Chablis or Maconnais wines, with green apple (granny smith) and a lingering citrus finish.
Cracking stuff this and the sort of wine I would love to take to a blind tasting (with a side bet on how many people pick it as from Wales).
I have heard it called Puligny Monmouthshire. Not a Puligny clone in my view, more a Chablishire or a Monmounais, but a great wine.
A seafood dish with a creamy sauce would work well with this. Sole veronique comes to mind.
Triomphe, Ancre Hill Estates, 2014
Oldest of the wines tasted and on sale at Viader Vintners for a mere £10, I was really curious as to this wine
I am not that familiar with the Triomphe grape, which is an early ripening grape (even in cold climates) thus making it ideal for the Wales.
The colour is dark and rich, with no sign of ageing even on the rim.
On the nose there were red fruits (predominately cherries) in abundance and then you get a surprise when you sip it as it has bag loads of fresh acidity. Citrus and sharp redcurrants were my initial thoughts. The chap who took the remains home said it had notes of crushed olive skins the next day, but it had still retained its bracing acidity.
I would drink this red slightly chilled down, as an appetif or with charcuterie.
Really interesting and quirky (in a good way) wine this and a steal for the tenner Gilbert is selling it for.
Ty Coch, Tintern Parva, 2017
Not 100% sold on the labelling here, with it (at least to my mind) looking a bit dated.
It is made from the Regent grape, which is a early ripening number so well suited to the Welsh climate.
Deep rich garnet colour in the glass,
the nose on this was quite floral. Violets came up from the glass from the start and it was reminiscent to me of sweets of my youth in the form Parma violets. There was also a touch of wood in there – balsa I would say.
The parma violet aromas also really came through on the palate, with a distinct chalkiness in the month. This makes this somewhat of a marmite wine (Parma violets tend to split a room and is a taste oldie like me tend to be more keen on than the younguns).
Pairing wise Welsh lamb springs to mind – a grilled cutlet, with a nice bit of char to the fat.
Llaethliw Red, 2018
Final wine of the night from a vineyard close to Aberaron and another quirky number, this time made from the Rondo grape (a hybrid grape created by a Czech named Professor Vilem Kraus – who sounds like a Bond villain).
Quite like the labelling here – very funky.
In colour, this was the lightest of the reds, which was interesting as rondo is a very dark skinned grape.
On the nose it was quite pruney, with black cherries (soaked Kirsch) and a touch of coffee in the mix. On palate it was really sweet, which was a bit of a surprise (at least to me), with a huge hit of sweetness immediately on the palate – almost liquid Black Forest gateaux.
Would be interesting to try this with a meat and fruit dish – a bobotie or a tangine maybe, both of which have a bit of spice heat to go with its sweetness. A blue cheese, oddly, might also work due to the sweetness – a per las, keeping it welsh
Quite the oddity this wine, with the hit of sweetness, which I can see not being to everyone’s taste.
Really interesting selection of wines put together by Viader Vintners which show both the quality and diversity of wines Wales has to offer.
My top three where as follows:
- Ancre Hill Estate Chardonnay
- Pen Y Clawdd Renaissance
- Ancre Hill Estate Triomphe
All the wines tasted are available from Viader Vintner (including as a mixed case) with full details on their website.
I picked up another bottle of the lovely Chardonnay on my way out – in order to spread the word across the border in England. It went down a treat with my family this weekend.
Whilst there has been loads of promotion of Welsh wines in Welsh Wine Week, I think it is important to remember Welsh wines are not just to be drunk during Welsh Wine Week. They are here to stay and should be enjoyed all year round. My advice is get to your local wine merchant and ask for a Welsh wine – is a great way to support local businesses.