With restrictions still in place, we all now comprehend that life under lockdown is hard on the social psyche. It is hard on those preparing to take life forward when the government (in the case of the UK) shouts ‘halt!’, and then seemingly arbitrarily shouts ‘go’ in another direction.
It means that life must be largely on our own terms. The actor Richard E. Grant posted on Twitter that he was tested and received the results within 30 minutes when arriving on a flight into Rome yesterday. In the UK such an idea is in the realm of driverless cars or Bladerunners.
So, without digressing any further, I should get to the main point of this post. In the last 2 weekends, I have visited 2 vineyards, Oastbrook Estate on the Sussex/Kent border and Greyfriars Estate in Surrey.
Oastbrook Estate where Latino imbues the vino
Oastbrook Estate Vineyard
Oastbrook is a little gem of a venue near Bodiam Castle, one of southern Englands most picturesque of moated forts in the National Trust’s care. The small river that flows at the bottom of Oastbrook Estate has a towpath that leads to Bodiam.
Of course, it is back at Oastbrook where the real action is; where the music plays and the wine pours. Winemaker and proprietor America Brewer holds court between the Oasthouse where she lives, with husband Nick, and the Hobbit House, an eccentric sunken accommodation where visitors who come to stay can literally live out a hallucinogenic fantasy of a wine-soaked Middle-Earth existence.
I am a particular fan of the rosé bubbly which has a rich compote of red fruit, a fresh dry finish and an instantly revivable one-more-glass effect that I really enjoy. There is also the Alsatian meets English ripe-fruit fresh Pinot Gris which pairs with all manner of delectable foods. Visualise a rich mushroom or goose pate and loaded vinous vessel.
During our visit, models dressed as brides were being photographed as Brazilian samba dancers swept across the decking. Walking among the vines we saw the Pinot Noir grapes on the vine entering that period of ripening called veraison, where the grapes change from white to red. Mightily healthy they looked too. 2020 may certainly be a troubled human vintage but let's hope we commemorate with good wine as a salve in years to come.
Greyfriars - 3 Cuvées
Whilst careening through Surrey to stay with friends in Wiltshire on Saturday passed, we saw the entrance to Greyfriars Wine Estate on the A31 just southwest of Guildford. It is a fast road so in the past when driving this way, I haven’t been agile enough to stop. This time we gratefully did.
View more artworks for sale by leading post-war artist Alan Davie: Oil on board | 152.5 x 198 cm
Signed, dated, Opus O.235, Full Provenance
Greyfriars sits at the bottom of a winding track and there is a large house concealed between the woods and the main road. The winery is developing nicely and on this particularly warm day in September, it was great to see several groups of people waiting for a tour and tasting. It not only demonstrated how appealing the growing wine scene is in the UK, it also shows that the audience interest in English wines is growing.
With time short we did not manage to taste the whole extensive range of various cuvées in the shop. The Classic Cuvée Brut 2014 is deliciously fresh and fruity maintaining a rich texture and bright acidity. A very well made sparkling wine that would impress all traditional method sparkling wine fans out there. At £25 it is a steal too with 66% Chardonnay, 22% Pinot Noir and 22% Pinot Meunier. It also has some reserve wine in the blend I believe.
The Greyfriars Rosé Reserve Brut 2015 is really impressive. This has been a good year for rosé lovers and both Oastbrook and Greyfriars are fabulous. The Greyfriars Rosé has a memorable ripe strawberry aroma with a little hint of something creamy in there. To taste, it is full summer fruit flavoured but with a fine balance of acidity that leaves the palate titivated. Very impressive.
The Greyfriars Cuvée Royale is a fabulous wine. 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir. It has some ageing in oak cask that softens the wine and makes it more meditative and luxurious. We shared a bottle at our destination with friends in Wilts and it was definitely well received.
The bottom line
There are many fabulous wine producers in England and Wales now and getting out and visiting them is a wonderful experience. Where ever you are, if you are reading this then you are likely in need of a refill. Use this tool (https://www.winegb.co.uk/vineyards/) on the WineGB website to locate your nearest vineyards and make a date to drop in to sample their wines, enjoy their views, and procure some bottles.
© for photo of America Brewer in red dress: Boyd Visuals