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English Wine Week: All Angels Vineyard Q&A

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For English Wine Week 2024, we are spotlighting a few of the great vineyards featured in The Vineyards of Britain by Ed Dallimore! Today, we’re showcasing the All Angels Vineyard.

All Angels Vineyard is located in West Berkshire and offers cellar door sales, tours and tastings, invitation lunches and dinners. They have been growing vines since 2011 and specialise in English sparkling Rosé and classic Cuvées. Read on to learn more about the All Angles Vineyard and what they have to offer!

How did the All Angels Vineyard come to be? 

We bought Church Farm in 2009 – the brief was to buy a weekend ‘lock-up and leave’ but Mark got carried away.  There were no vineyards at the time – in fact much of the land was covered in polo ponies – but after Mark’s initial idea of Alpaca was firmly kicked into the long grass, thoughts turned to the viability of vineyards as family friends had a commercially successful vineyard.  In 2009, Mark instructed the country’s leading viticultural consultants to analyse the sites and their report was effusive about the prospect for growing grapes for top quality sparkling wine.  2010 was spent preparing the land and planting commenced in 2011.

What’s one wine you’re particularly proud of?

That’s a bit like asking which is your favourite child – or in my case, labrador!  We are proud of all our wines.  Each is unique: we only make single vintage wines and each has a different character reflecting the growing season and blending decisions of the year – we think this is far more fun than a standard flavour all the time.  Our Classic Cuvées are all aged on lees far longer than most, with a minimum of six years secondary fermentation and that leads to a much smoother but more complex and interesting wine than younger releases, retaining their freshness but avoiding the heartburn some younger wines give.  If I had to pick one, it would be our Classic Cuvée 2014 Long Aged on Lees for these reasons: we are releasing a version of this with nine years on lees in October.  We don’t talk about our Sparkling Rosé 2018 as we don’t want anyone to buy it – we want to keep for ourselves it is so superb!

How do you see the British wine industry evolving in the future? 

I’m confident it will go from strength to strength for the right players that are determined to concentrate on quality.  There will inevitably be casualties along the route: too many people have planted in the expectation of making a quick buck. As an industry, we need to remember two core principles: (a) this is a generational exercise and the planting generation should not necessarily expect to make much, if any, profit; and (b) only release the best wine that you can produce and only when it is ready – drop volume for quality and be patient. If players release wine that is not the very best, they may be damaged irreparably and so might our nascent industry.

As a visitor, what can one expect during a tour of the Vineyard? 

This is a little of the general summary that appears in our literature and website: you will visit two of the vineyards – sandwiched between Newbury and Hungerford – and learn about the history, successes, challenges and future of English wine making.  But not just wine, the vineyards and surrounding fields are full of history, from C12th, through the Crusades to WWII.  After the vineyards and their views from Beacon Hill and Highclere to Coombe Gibbet, you will learn about what makes All Angels wines truly unique during a tutored tasting.

What are your future plans for the Vineyard? 

We plan to develop our Holtwood site to offer more hospitality.  Holtwood is our largest vineyard, five minutes away from Church Farm, and is surrounded by nature including woodland,  a six acre site that we’ve planted with wildflowers and apple trees and has a fall of three ponds for wetland wildlife.  It is an incredibly tranquil site and one which will appeal to visitors who want to see other aspects of nature as well as vineyards.  Across all vineyards we are continuously working to support and enhance nature and all the wildlife that live there.  We are increasingly looking at how automation and AI can help us keep our vines at optimal health with minimal human intervention.

Do you have any tips for beginners looking to become more discerning about their wines? 

Depending on how serious they want to be, enrol on a WSET course.  These are excellent introductions and can be taken much further at different levels – they have been the launch pad for many a future wine expert.  Failing that, try as many wines as you can and don’t follow the views of one reviewer blindly – wine is subjective so don’t be put off a wine that you like because a critic doesn’t.

What’s one thing you wish more people knew about British wines?

Just how excellent our wines are and that they should not be put off because they haven’t heard of a name. British wines are world-class, especially our sparkling wines, and that reflects the enormous effort that goes into producing outstanding grapes and wines.  That’s maybe another thing: just how much hard 24/7 graft goes into making our wines – it always amazes people on tours when they find out.

What would you say is the most fulfilling part of working in the wine industry?

The person at the table during a tasting who says: ‘That is amazing – I’ve tried a lot of Champagne and sparkling wine but that’s the best I’ve ever had.’  It makes it all worthwhile.

 

Find out more at: https://www.allangels.com/ 

The Vineyards of Britain by Ed Dallimore is available from WaterstonesBlackwellsLitalist and independent bookshops across the UK. If you’re interested in finding more great vineyards, get your copy now!

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