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The contingent from Wales
TODAY’S annual tasting of UK wines marked something of a watershed for one of our fastest-growing industries. It was the first under the umbrella of @Wine_GB which brings together two previous organisations, one representing vineyards and the other the largest producers. A record number of nearly 50 vineyards were represented in a bigger venue – the Lindley Hall in Westminster – including, for the first time, five vineyards from Wales.
It was a coming of age in another sense because UK sparkling wines have now “arrived“. It is generally accepted that they are world class and the winning of gold medals is no longer considered news in the way it was a few years ago.
The big question now is whether our still wines, particularly white, will be able to gain a similar traction in years to come. The main candidate for success is probably Bacchus which is winning lots of prizes (though Solaris does well especially towards the north of England).
Bacchus is a good example of the dilemma facing UK growers – do you price as high as you can to milk the scarcity value of domestic wines or do you price so that they can compare or beat comparable (Sauvignon-ish) wines from abroad?
The Bacchus made by New Hall in Essex (who were the first to plant Bacchus here in 1977) at £9.50 and that offered by Brightwell of Oxford at £9.30 (or £9.99 in Waitrose) are the trailblazers for value for money and a glaring contrast to the more usual £13/£14 price range rising to £25 for a Chapel Down Kit’s Coty Bacchus.
The fascinating feature was the presence of five Welsh vineyards for the first time. They were White Castle, Parva (at Tintern) Montgomery, Conwy (the most northerly in Wales which won a silver medal for its first sparkling) and Llaethliw in Dylan Thomas country. I have visited most of the vineyards in the north
and the south https://tinyurl.com/ycwmn2zm and have been bowled over by their vibrant personalities and their quality (often beating English wines in medals per vineyard). The star turn of Wales – Ancre Hill in Monmouth – was not represented here today as it is not a member of WineGB but that only underlines how at last Welsh wine is coming in from the cold.
All this, of course, is history. Vineyards are worrying what the weather will be like for the rest of the year and praying there won’t be a repeat of the recent late spring frosts. We can all drink to that.