A couple of years back we discovered that we had a vineyard only 7 miles away from our home. It was a revelation, we had no idea. We visited and had a tasting session of what have since become some famous grapes/wines being made in England, many winning global wine awards ahead of champagne and other still wine categories. Poulton Hill features in my upcoming wine book (It’s Not About The Wine) so here is a preview of the chapter, England!, with a description of that first visit almost 2 years ago. It was a revelation because it opened my eyes to not only the rise of the English wine industry, but also to the hyper focus on quality and sustainability:
Our most recent wine travel and wine tasting took us less than 7 miles from our Cotswolds home, and for the first few miles we speculated that this was an April Fool joke and that we’d lost track of time again in our old age! The visit was prompted by a BT/Openreach engineer who, fixing our internal phone wiring, had glimpsed our wine collection, and told us of a vineyard only a couple of villages away. Our doubts increased as we turned left at Poulton village onto the Down Ampney road, and 10 minutes later had reached Down Ampney with no sign of anything to do with wines or vines. We HAD seen a “bloody big house” on our right behind some rather large gates, but nothing to say there was a vineyard there in disguise or in hiding.
Now, let me stop there, because this is not meant to be a negative description of the quite fantastic Poulton Hill Estate, a relatively new vineyard in the Cotswolds just south of Cirencester. A new entrance is about to be opened with a sign to the vineyard and what I had seen at the gates was the entrance to the owners house and guest accommodation. Driving up to the large gates they opened electronically, and after 100 metres or so we turned into the vineyard and Cellar Door tasting room.
Here we were welcomed by Tileri the Managing Director and Natalie the Assistant Manager who enthusiastically described the history, current operation and future of the vineyard, and then the detail of the grape varieties and wines produced. Our followers know that we have visited vineyards all over the world, some very large and some very small, but this was the most welcoming and enthusiastic we have received, especially since their wine tours and wine tastings are normally only by appointment at present.
Their main grapes grown are classically those best suited to our “English terroir” (do we need another word for that?”), and include Seyval Blanc, Bacchus, Phoenix, Rondo and Pinot Noir. Not a Pinot Grigio or Shiraz in sight, thankfully, but Phoenix was a new grape to me and I subsequently found it to be a cross species between Bacchus and Villard Blanc, but enough technical stuff and on to the tasting.
Natalie now lined up five wines for me to taste, a Rose, a Bacchus, a Phoenix, a Rondo, and an English Sparkling Rose. By the way, isn’t it time England had its OWN word or brand for “sparkling” that matches Champagne, Prosecco, Cava, or Cremant de ………?
As usual I won’t get into detailed tasting notes here (the wine tasting notes on the Poulton Hill Estate website are very good) but each wine was typically fresh and classically English. I would recommend ANY of them, but I found the Bacchus and Rondo to be outstanding and certainly as good as recent wines I have tasted at Three Choirs and Chapel Down vineyards. However I bought one of each for our family team to taste at our leisure before we return for a “proper purchase expedition”. More soon on that possible English branding word instead of the awful EU endorsed “English Sparkling”! Any suggestions that aren’t French! Latin maybe?
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