Wine with History: Where the heck is Winbirri?
Writing my new book, “It’s Not About The Wine” during the Covid pandemic has inspired me to continue my wine travels from home and today’s virtual tour of the vineyards of England arrives at Winbirri in Norfolk near the old city of Norwich. Sounds a bit like a New Zealand or Australian name doesn’t it, but Winbirri is slap bang in the heart of old England at Surlingham on the banks of the River Yare. It’s close to lots of English history associated with Norwich, England’s second city in Medieval times, and which was the site of the famous Ketts Rebellion which took place during the short reign of King Edward VI in 1549. The rebellion was a reaction to enclosure laws in which wealthy landowners could put up fences to prevent anyone else using the land as they had for generations to grow food or graze a cow. Two big battles took place at Mousehold Heath and Dussindale which resulted in the rebel leaders being captured and executed!
The Wines of Winbirri
Winbirri has 33 acres of vines which include Rondo, Regent, Dornfelder, Seyval Blanc, and Bacchus, plus the classic champagne combination of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. They produce about 150,000 bottles of wine annually of red, white and sparkling, but it is the still white Bacchus that has brought fame and fortune to Winbirri. In 2017 Winbirri won the Decanter Platinum Award for Best in Show Varietal White Wine in the world with their Bacchus 2015 vintage. Apparently within only 6 hours of winning they had demand for 10 years supply worth of Bacchus from all over the world! I suppose I was lucky recently to grab 6 bottles of their 2019 vintage and couldn’t resist opening one of them within a couple of days with my daughter Sharon, only fair since it was she who alerted me to the availability. So I opened a bottle in my Wine Room reading from the Wines of Gala featuring Salvador Dalí and his chapter The Wines of Joy to which I have just added this stunning Bacchus 2019 as a perfect example:
“The Wines of Joy are linked together in a dance, they are wines to be drunk young, generally in the year following their birth. They mostly give us aromas, perfumes linked to the grape’s properties. Beaujolais tops the list offering an array of perfumes from the vegetable world, fruits and flowers too. Peaches, strawberries, apricots cherries, faded roses, iris, violets, all reaching our palate through the retro-nasal passages. Together with taste they compose a symphony of freshness and suppleness so typical of young wines.”
Here’s my own brief note from that first glass of Winbirri Bacchus 2019:
“Very pale yellow, floral notes from the beginning, maybe elderflower. Then a definite taste of passion fruit with a long lasting finish. Plenty of acidity but well balanced with fruit. An obvious comparison with Sauvignon Blanc, but a very gentle version, complex. I think this will age well and turn out to be a classy vintage. Probably the best English wine I’ve had. Buy more, if I can find any!”
So, I encourage you to try this wine, you won’t regret it. And, if you don’t have a copy of The Wines of Gala to read as you savour the wine, then content yourself with listening to The Wasps: Overture, written by that great English composer Vaughan Williams, which goes splendidly with this great English wine. There’s more about England’s wine in my new book, “It’s Not About The Wine” recently released on Amazon.
Wine goes a long way with history, or art, or philosophy especially when it’s a classy wine like this Winbirri Bacchus, an award winner and the best English still wine I’ve tasted. Have you had any of our increasingly famous high quality wines? If you have, tell me your favourite.