This month’s Cornwall Today feature on the 2014 Cornwall Vintage gave Jon the perfect excuse to visit some of the area’s fabulous vineyards, and try and glass or two….
English wine? Cornish wine? Ten years ago, you might have laughed at the idea , but now, it seems to me, now is the hour for English wine. There seems, at last, to be the proper respect for English wine among the drinking public. Maybe the quality now lives up to the hype. Maybe it was William and Kate drinking English wine at their wedding. But whatever the reason; more English wine will be made, drunk and enjoyed, in 2015 than ever before.
In Cornwall we should be behind our local vineyards and we should routinely drink Cornish wine. The great news is that 2014 was one of the best ever years for Cornish winemakers, which means lots of great wine to drink in 2015.
The reason is the weather. We had a fantastic summer last year didn’t we? Day after day of warm sunny weather, a decent Spring and a warm dry Autumn. Great for the locals, great for the visitors and of course, great weather for growing grapes.
To grow grapes well in Cornwall, or anywhere else, there are a few times of year that really matter. The first is when the vine flowers. Just like any other fruiting plant, vines grow flowers, the flowers are pollinated and fruit then grows around the pollinated seeds. With grapes in Cornwall this happens at the end of June.
The weather at this time of year though is critical. If it is cold, windy or wet the flowers will be damaged before they have the chance to pollinate and set fruit on the vine. In June last year things went well, vineyards had great fruit set and consequently the chance of a big harvest.
The next important time is the harvest itself. In Cornwall grapes are usually picked in late October. Again, what is needed is a spell of warm, dry weather to allow the grapes to increase their sugar content and become nicely ripe. Rain or cold, misty days at this time can be a disaster, but again, 2014 was a kind year. There was even some helpful rain in August to swell the crop.
We have three commercial scale wine producers in Cornwall; Polgoon just outside Penzance, Knightor in clay country near Trethurgy and, of course, the largest and long established Camel Valley at Nanstallon near Wadebridge.
Back in October, with picking safely completed, Bob Lindo of Camel Valley described 2014 as “the vintage of dreams” with the harvest completed by 7th October, the date it usually begins. Adrian Derx from Knightor commented that the unseasonally dry Autumn gave them higher than usual yields of ripe, healthy grapes and that the vintage in Cornwall was significantly better than further East in Sussex and Hampshire. Kim Coulson from Polgoon was similarly upbeat, saying that this was their best ever vintage.
Back in January I was lucky enough to taste some of the wine maturing in tank at at Polgoon and there is most certainly some delicious wine coming through. Look out for their Bacchus, a UK answer to Sauvignon Blanc, the soft, elegant Madelaine Angevine and a nicely aromatic blend from Seyval Blanc and Ortega. There is also some lovely Pinot Noir and the sparkling from this will certainly be one to look out for when it is ready in 2016.
I first went to Knightor vineyard in February and arrived to find a team of staff busy bottling the 2014 Carpe Diem Rose. We headed back to the well equipped tasting room to taste this and the lovely Carpe Diem white. Both are delicious, bright, crisp wines- designed to be drunk young and fresh. I also tasted single vineyard Bacchus and Pinot Noir Rose, both from the Portscatho 2014 harvest. The wines have a real theme of lively and quite complex floral and aromatic fruit, set beside a light body and racy tangy freshness- delicious, in other words.
Most of you will, I am sure by now, have tried Camel Valley. The wines are excellent and need no introduction. It will nevertheless be a real treat to try the still 2014 wines as they start to be released this Spring and the Sparkling from 2016 onwards.
All of the vineyards in Cornwall accept visitors and, if you are at all interested in wine, it is fascinating to take the tour, view what goes on, and, of course, taste the wine. Please do make the time to visit. You can also find these wines at the specialist wine shops across the county. For more information on visits and on stockists have a look at the vineyards own websites.
This month I am, of course, going to recommend wines from our local producers. You probably know the excellent Camel Valley, so, to give the newcomers a helping hand, please do seek these out.
Polgoon Vineyard 2014 Madeleine Angevine. Usually this costs around £15 and is available from the vineyard or good (independent!) wine shops around the County.
Knightor 2014 Carpe Diem. This is available as a white or rose style. Expect to pay around £14 and again it available from the vineyard or good wine shops.