All eyes are on English wine at the moment. Let’s face it; there’s not much else to be proud of about our country right now, so the fact that English wines are soaring in terms of quality and innovation is just what we need.
A welcome break from the madness of London, we three took a trip down to Greyfriars Vineyard in the sunny, Surrey Hills. You may have whizzed past them on the Hog’s Back at Puttenham on the way out West but we very much suggest you stop in next time. Alternatively, you can jump on a train from Waterloo to Guildford and be there in less than 40 minutes.
Greyfriars has been part of the English wine scene since 2010 when owners Mike and Hilary Wagstaff took over, having decided to make the move to winemaking from engineering and law respectively. Their aim was to expand the vineyards already there and to grow them from hobby scale to boutique commercial scale. When they took over the vines from the previous owners, they were planted mostly to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which was quite unusual at the time, but rather fortuitous given how well those varieties are now performing. “Most people were growing horrible German hybrids,” says Mike. Luckily for them, the chalky hills had already proved their worth for the vines. All that was left was to smarten up the winemaking and do some planting. “We’ve now gone from 1.5 acres to 40 acres, so 16 hectares,” says Mike. “Big enough to be serious but we’re not a huge conglomerate.”
In the nine years under the Wagstaffs, Greyfriars have made a splash with their distinctive, authentic wines and eye-catching branding. They now boast and impressive range of thirteen wines, each with a signature style, reflecting the unique local soils and climate.
The Non Vintage Sparkling Range
Three crisp, refreshing sparklers await you at a seriously impressive price for what they are. The non vintage sparkling cuvée (£18.50) is an elegant blend of the three ‘champagne’ grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and touch of Pinot Meunier. The non vintage rosé (£18.50), made from 100% Pinot Noir is pale and pretty with a red apple skin tang. The unique non vintage sparkling fumé (£18.50) however is certainly one to try. 100% bubbly Sauvignon Blanc, it’s zippy, herbaceous and citrussy. A true point of difference. All three are excellent for the price and happily, relatively low in alcohol at 11.5%!
The top-end non vintage wine however is the blancs de noirs (made entirely with black grapes). It’s 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier and has a moreish, fleshy texture with beautiful red fruit aromatics. £30 and worth every penny.
The Vintage Sparkling Range
Seriously special, these vintage wines feel like a big step up. The 2014 Classic Cuvée is fleshy and rich (£23). The limited edition Cuvée Royale 2015 is extraordinary. A blend of 50:50 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, is has an unctuous mouthfeel with brioche notes and poise from the red fruit. And finally, there’s the 2014 Oaked Blanc de Blancs: a wine made from 100% Chardonnay with a tropical note and vanilla finish. Delicious!
The Still Wines
Greyfriars make a range of still wines too, usually single varietal and grapes you don’t usually associate with England: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and also, a strawberry- scented still rosé. All priced at £13.50, you could try a mixed case and taste them all!
See more about Greyfriars Vineyard on the website here.
Buy the wines here.
Address: Greyfriars Vineyard, The Hogs Back, Puttenham, Surrey, GU31AG, England, UK