While the production of wine in Britain goes back as far the Romans, it’s only in recent years that British wines have returned to the global stage, with a number of sparkling English wines giving the top French Champagne houses a run for their money. It is down this route that Welsh vineyard Ancre Hill Estate is also travelling. This biodynamic winery, situated on the south facing slopes of the Wye Valley, on the outskirts of Monmouth, started planting vines in April 2006 and continued in April 2007 and is fast bringing Welsh wine to a wider audience.
The vineyard is made up of two sites: the Folly View site, of six acres, which has been planted with Chardonnay; and the three acre Town site which is devoted to the growing of Pinot Noir on good draining limestone soil. Despite being based in Wales, there is a comparatively low rainfall in the area, with the sheltered valley enjoying its own meso-climate.
Naturally, the wines are made from cooler climate grapes such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay - the mainstays of Champagne - and German grapes, Seyval Blanc and Triomphe D’Alsace and the Galician stalwart Albarino.
The vineyard quickly established itself on the UK wine scene and has been picking up awards since the first wines were released in 2008. A silver medal was won at the Decanter World Wines Awards and a bronze medal at the International Wine and Spirit awards. The Daily Telegraph listed an Ancre Hill 2009 dry white in its top ten best wines.
Ancre Hill’s ambition is to produce the finest sparkling wines possible using the champenoise method and the best viniculture practices. Judging by the quality of present offering they're well on the way to achieving that goal.