Culture and heritage are like a pair of blankets, both wrapped around that bottle of wine you are about to open! Provided your wine is not one of those soulless, bland, characterless global brands where culture and heritage are not only lacking but actually frowned upon. Visit any vineyard anywhere in the world, a proper vineyard rather than a wine “factory”, look around, talk to people, scratch the surface and you will find plenty to interest you. Sometimes it will be the generations of the same family who have proudly continued traditions of quality and style, or have handed down winemaking knowledge and traditions related to the terroir. Then there is the cultural environment in which the vineyard is located typified by the cultural and historical variations across France, from Burgundy and Alsace in the north to Rousillon and Languedoc in the south. England doesn’t have the depth of culture and tradition in its winemaking, we are a new New World country when it comes to wine, but NOT when it comes to historical environment.
Poulton Hill vineyard is one of England’s youngest vineyards, located a mere 7 miles away from our Cotswolds home and was founded as recently as 2010. Compare this with the Chateau des Vaults in Savennieres, France, where Evelyn Pontbriand is the 5th generation of female owner/winemaker of the estate. But, scratch the surface of Poulton Hill and you will find culture and history going back to Roman times. Here’s a few examples that make an extended visit and stay around Poulton so worthwhile:
Cirencester, Corinium Museum
Corinium Dobunnorum was the Romano-British settlement at Cirencester also just a short drive of a few miles from our home. Its 2nd-century walls enclosed the 2nd-largest city in Roman Britain. It was the tribal capital of the Dobunii and is usually thought to have been the capital of one of the five British provinces, Britannia Prima (Britannia I) now the South West of England.By the mid-70s CE, the military had abandoned the fort and over the next twenty years, a street grid was laid out and the town was furnished with an array of large public stone buildings, two market places, and numerous shops and private houses. The forum and basilica were bigger than any other in Britain, apart from Londinium, and over the past 100 years or so archaeological excavations have revealed many artefacts from the Roman period which are exhibited in the town museum. The Corinium has a collection of 2nd- and 4th-century Roman mosaic floors and carvings, as well as many other Roman objects, but it is the mosaics that most visitors come to see. The Orpheus Mosaic from the 4th Century found at Barton Farm outside the town, and The Hunting Dogs Mosaic dating from the 2nd Century and found in 1849 are two of the most important.
Bibury, Arlington Row
Arlington Row cottages were built in 1380, originally serving as a monastic wool store.This wool store was converted into a row of cottages for weavers in the late 17th century, with some late 17th- or early 18th-century additions. The cloth produced there was hung out on racks to dry on The Rack Isle opposite, before being sent on to Arlington Mill for degreasing. It was preserved by the Royal College of Arts in 1929 and restored by the National Trust in the 1970s. Since then it has been used as a film and television location, most notably for the films Stardust and Bridget Jones’s Diary.
Cirencester, St John The Baptist
Often called the ‘Cathedral of the Cotswolds’, St John the Baptist, Cirencester, is one of the largest and most elegant medieval churches in the county, if not the entire country. Cirencester was a regional capital at the time of the Roman occupation of Britain. The Romans built the first known church here, though we cannot be certain of its location. The Roman church was destroyed by the Saxons when they gained control of the area after the Battle of Dyrham in 577 AD. The Saxons built a church in this location, which stood for over 400 years. Then, in 1117 AD King Henry I founded an abbey and parish church to replace the old Saxon church. The abbey is gone now, though remnants can be seen in the Abbey Grounds beside the current church building. King Henry’s church was rebuilt around 1240, and again in Gothic style around 1520. It is largely this church that we see today.
Chedworth, Roman Villa
Chedworth Roman Villa is one of the largest in Britain, tucked away down long winding roads in the picturesque countryside just north of Chedworth. The highlights of this ancient site are the many fine mosaics that rival any in the U.K. and Europe, as well as the remarkable underfloor heating systems. The stone villa was first built in the early 2nd century and expanded in the 4th century. The luxurious features and precious marble mosaics lead archaeologists to believe the dwelling belonged to a very wealthy and high-status Romano-Briton family. The 4th-century home included an underfloor heated west wing, where the dining room with a magnificent mosaic floor was located. The villa had not one but two separate heated bath houses, one for damp heat like a Turkish bath and one for dry heat like a sauna. The remains of both can be seen at the site, as well as a courtyard and spring-fed nymphaeum pool.
Poulton Hill Vineyard
“Poulton Hill vineyard is planted with 9000 vines, white Bacchus, Seyval Blanc and Phoenix and red Pinot Noir, Regent and Rondo producing 20,000 bottles of wine annually. We have a responsibility to be not just environmentally conscious but also environmentally active. It is a responsibility we take seriously, from the Babydoll sheep that graze the orchard to the wildflowers we plant to help our insect population. We are home to two flocks of rare-breed sheep, Jacob’s Sheep and Olde English Babydoll Southdown Sheep, two of the oldest breeds in England. Our Babydoll sheep are perfect for keeping the area around the vines tidy without nibbling the grapes – and they fertilize the soil as they graze.”
We have visited Poulton Hill several times, the most recent being a few days before Christmas to pick up some of their Arlington Red which we wanted for Christmas Eve as part of our “Full English” Christmas celebrations. Named after the famous Arlington Row cottages at nearby Bibury, and mentioned above, this is a red blend of Regent and Rondo grapes with the vineyard tasting notes “Deep ruby in appearance, with a beautiful nose of cherry, blackberry and hints of strawberry. The palate is bursting with English red berries, further dark cherry and damson at the forefront, and hints of raspberry. Subtle oak and soft tannin make for a wonderfully well balanced finish.” You will always find a warm and cheery welcome here from Tileri and Natalie whether for a tasting or a guided tour, their enthusiasm perfectly matches this Arlington Red!