Vineyards of Monmouthshire: Parva Farm
Naming has been a long running bugbear for the UK wine industry, not least because of the complex identity of the country itself. So it was only a matter of time before a blog titled Drinking England started to look inappropriately named because it was now covering Welsh wine!
I had decided to do a tour of Monmouthshire vineyards for English and Welsh Wine Week 2019 - I've had a long running family connection in the area, spent many summer holidays here as a child, and at least a couple of these vineyards had actually been there during my childhood, but I had never visited any until now.
Of the four vineyards on my itinerary this week, Parva Farm, on the slopes of the Wye Valley just outside of Tintern, has to be the most beautiful setting. Its 2.5 acres are on a very steep slope, with views down to the river which can only be described as picturesque - after all the word was first coined for this stretch of the Wye, by William Gilpin in the 18th Century.
The slope of the vineyard is of course south facing, but too steep to run a tractor along the lanes. As a point of viticulture geekery the problem with steep slopes and tractors is not that the tractor cannot get up the slope, it's the risk of tipping when turning.
The owners - Colin and Judith Dudley - manage it almost entirely on foot and by hand without machinery, except for a mower. They also do all the vineyard management themselves, only taking on extra help from local volunteers at harvest time. They are clearly a very hard working couple.
The winemaking is done at Three Choirs in Gloucestershire, consistent with most of the Monmouthshire vineyards (only Ancre Hill has its own winery).
First planted in 1979, Colin and Judith took over in 1996, by which point the vineyard had been left to go wild, and it took the new owners four years to get it back into a manageable state. It is believed historically this was likely used as a vineyard by the monks of Tintern Abbey, and possibly even had Roman origins prior to that - there is a Roman spring on the site.
They offer a self guided tour of the vineyard, which I thought was very nicely laid out, with subtle route markers and plenty of informative signs talking about the viticulture process, the history of the site, and the varieties they grow.
They have a large number of grape varieties - I think Judith said there were as many as 16 - I spotted a good selection on my tour of the : Seyval Blanc, Huxelrebe, Ehrenfelser, Pinot Noir, Bacchus, Reichensteiner, Ortega, Muller Thurgau, Auxerrois, Gewurztraminer and Regent.
From this very broad palette they currently make five still wines, two sparkling wines, as well as a selection of fruit wines and a fruit punch. They also make mead and cider.
First their Bacchanalia 2016, predominantly Bacchus (I think Judith said 70%?) and the remainder made up of from some of their other white varieties. Quite a dry and restrained white wine.
Next a single varietal Bacchus 2017, from a vintage when they had apparently suffered frost damage and had a reduced yield. The grapes which did survive the frost were obviously of good quality though - this was noticeably more vibrant than the Bacchanalia, a floral and tropical fruit nose.
The Bwthyn Rhosyn 2017 is a rosé Pinot Noir, and I thought they had achieved a nice balance of sweetness to acidity here. This was a very pleasant wine.
Their 2016 Ty Coch is a red wine made from Regent which has a gamey / smokey sort aroma which I struggle to put my finger on, and seems to be characteristic of Regent. This isn't a grape I'm particularly fond of to be honest.
The sparkling wine is not available for tasting so I bought a bottle to take away to taste - notes on that to follow.