English Wine Week: Brightwell 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, to celebrate some of the best vineyards in England!

Today’s featured vineyard is the gorgeous Brightwell vineyard, located just south of Oxford. Brightwell is one of the top five English red wine producers and also produces great white, rosé and sparkling wines, all of which you can sample with a tour of their winery throughout the summer. Check out our Q&A below to learn more about Brightwell and their wines.

 

 

How did the Brightwell Vineyard come to be?

Brightwell Vineyard was first planted in 1987, as a pioneering retirement project by Denys Randolph. There was no winery and the grapes were sold. However, the scale of work required proved overwhelming and the vineyard was sold in 1999 to Bob and Carol Nielsen. We have made changes to the vineyard and plantings, built a winery, and now make and sell our wines under the Brightwell Vineyard brand.

Among all the wines, which one is your favourite and why?

Our current favourite (this does change) is our Pinot Noir. When we bought the vineyard, we attended many conferences to learn more. There was a general pessimism about the possibility of making a good quality red wine in England and red varieties were not widely planted. Bob suggested in 2000, ‘What about Pinot Noir? That could work.’ So we planted Pinot Noir with the intention of making red wine. This year our current Pinot Noir, grown and made here at Brightwell Vineyard, just won a silver medal in the International Wine Competition. Good English red wine is now a reality!

What are some of the obstacles typically faced in a Vineyard?

Haha; too many to list. Grapevines can be very difficult to control and every variety varies in how it performs. Some are brittle, some are wiry; they suffer attacks by all manner of predators and mildews. And then there is the weather! England’s highly changeable weather keeps you on your toes, and a late spring frost can be devastating.

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

The English wine industry has expanded rapidly over the last ten years, however it will always be rather boutique and will not serve the ‘mass market’. This is because labour and other costs are much higher in UK than many other countries, and there is a shortage of suitable land available on the market for vineyards to acquire.

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

We offer two tour options: one-hour option including a thirty-minute tour and talk in the vines followed by a tasting of three still wines, and a two-hour ‘winemakers’ tour encompassing a one-hour tour and talk in the vines followed by a one-hour tasting of five wines including our Sparkling. The latter option gives in depth information about the cultivation and training of vines, and covers the winemaking and technical processes.

What are your future plans for the Vineyard?

Unless a nearby farm comes up for sale, we are at the limit of the land we have to plant on. So we are expanding our tourism offering. We have a riverside site available for wedding hire, and we now run the Thames Valley Festival (www.thamesvalleyfestival.co.uk) here at the Vineyard with an array of local wine, food and drink producers exhibiting in a relaxed setting. The next Festival runs on 22 and 23 June 2024.

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

English wines can be very good when made by professionals with good equipment, and they are getting better every year as we develop our skills. Once English food was laughed at – not any more! Once English wine was laughed at, but that was amateur homebrew. Now it’s a skilled professional industry right on your doorstep. Get out and try it!

 

Find out more at: www.brightwellvineyard.co.uk

 

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

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