The Future of Welsh Sparkling Wine

Crguk-Wine

With a history in the vines dating back to the Romans, the few Wineries that operate out of Wales are making strides and are pushing to introduce their creations as a serious contender to the likes of English Sparkling Wine and Champagne.

Around 30 vineyards are operational in Wales, each with a different variation of history, with some, like Velfrey only popping up in the last decade, we are likely to see more vineyards pop up over the next few years as the love for Welsh Sparkling Wines grows.

As you’ll read a bit further on, not all of Wales is suitable for growing vines, so we’re not likely to see anywhere near the growth potential of the likes of Slovenia, a country that is just slightly smaller than Wales with a lower population, but with a wider selection good terroir. Compared to Wales’s 30 vineyards, Slovenia homes around 28,000.

The Welsh Vineyards are going to have mountains to climb and castles to conquer if they want to seriously get their Sparkling Wines, not just in the hands of the United Kingdom, but the rest of the world.

Right now English Sparkling Wine is steadily becoming known and is constantly making strides to further its improvements in quality and marketing, Wales sits to the side of England, with far fewer wineries pushing Welsh Sparkling Wine and fewer people even knowing where the country is, the situation is like BlackBerry (Wales) competing against Nokia (England) who is competing against Apple (Champagne), in case you had no idea what the first two companies were, they made mobile phones.

Due to Wales’s size and late arrival to the industry, it’s going to be very hard for them to make an impression outside of the country, people like to enjoy local food and drink, so I’m sure the Welsh people who like wine, are very supportive and often enjoy a few bottles.

So, What Can Wales Do To Be Noticed & Taken Seriously?

When we mention exclusivity, our minds may take us to something rare and in short supply but in high demand, although Champagne is exclusive, it still managed to produce 321.8 Million Bottles in 2021.

I think that’s what Wales needs to focus on, they don’t have a massive supply, (with time this supply will increase) but they can create the demand for it now with some good advertising, but this is something the Welsh Government or a Welsh Wine Board would really need to get behind.

They would need to present the image that Welsh Sparkling Wine is the pinnacle of Sparkling Wines in the United Kingdom, not focusing on the future like everyone else, but painting a picture of the past, using their vast history of castles, royalty and legends of Dragons to promote this image of royal adventure, heroic conquests and being able to slay the dragons that stand in your way,

For now, Welsh Sparkling Wine remains a hidden treasure trove of possibilities, waiting to be unearthed, time will tell if the relatively unknown Sparkling Wine producing country of Wales will reign fire down from the skies on its competition or continue in time as a small tourist attraction to these who are just curious of its characteristics.

Let’s take a look at a young Welsh Winery, speak with the owner and pour ourselves a Glass of Welsh Bubbly!

Velfrey – Sparkling Wine of Wales

This Welsh Winery started back in 2016, fairly new to the world of wine, especially in Wales, as the first Welsh Vineyards started popping back up around the 1960s, I say ‘back up’ because it’s believed that the first vines ever planted in Wales were by Suetonius Paulinus, a Roman governor at the time, in AD75 during the Roman occupation of Wales in the small town of Caerleon.

Velfrey Vineyard is planted on a south-facing slope of the Lampeter Vale in the south Pembrokeshire countryside, occupying 3 acres, and containing over 4,000 vines. They plant the following Grape Varieties: Pinot Noir, Seyval Blanc & Solaris.

I reached out to the owner of Vlefrey Vineyards, Andy Mounsey, asking him three questions to discover more about their journey into the Sparkling Wine industry and how they see it evolving.

‘What inspired you to start producing Sparkling Wine in Wales?’

“Wales is a tremendously inspiring place to live and work. We set our heart on establishing a vineyard in the beautiful surroundings of the Pembrokeshire countryside having tasted other Welsh wines which surpassed all our expectations. When we began to investigate the potential of our site, which had previously been used for raising sheep, it soon became clear that it ticked all the boxes for viticulture in Great Britain: a gentle south-facing slope, with a shelter belt in the direction of the prevailing summer wind, not too high above sea level nor too close to the coast. The decision to concentrate on sparkling wine came down to a pragmatic assessment of the market and where we believed the greatest potential lay in establishing a new vineyard in an area almost entirely devoid of others and building a business from the ground up.” – Andy Mounsey

They currently have two Sparkling Wines available to try, their first Non-Vintage made with the Seyval Blanc and Pinot Noir, with added Chardonnay grapes and spending 18 months on the lees and their recently released 2019 Vintage Cuvée Reserve Sparkling Wine, with 2/3 Seyval blanc and 1/3 classic Pinot Noir, spending 24 months on the lees aging away to its perfection.

They will soon be releasing their 2020 Vintage Sparkling Wine, but we’ll have to wait to try that one.

‘What’s the potential with the Welsh terroir in producing Sparkling Wine?’

“Exciting! There are large parts of Wales which are not suited to viticulture, but there are pockets in the South West, the South East and the North of the country where local conditions really lend themselves to the production of sparkling wine. There’s huge potential to differentiate Welsh sparkling wine from other regions as well, using our Welsh language to highlight the unique identity of our wines. Watch this space for developments!” – Andy Mounsey

The sunshine in the Pembrokeshire countryside may not be around much, but combined with the coastal breezes help produce what they believe to be the perfect ripening conditions which help produce the highest quality for their Sparkling Wine, I guess we’ll have to see, the only thing left to do now is pop open a bottle and try for our selves.

Velfrey – Cuvée Reserve 2019 – Tasting Notes

Aroma – “Lovely Christmas display of spices, with welcoming cinnamon and nutmeg powder, sprinkled on a fine layer of pastry, Danish pastry, with bruised apple and yellow fruits in the background on the aroma.”

Flavour – “Almost identical aroma to the palate, Christmas vibes with cinnamon and nutmeg, more pastry to go around and a delicate touch of bruised apples, yellow fruits and gooseberry on the palate.”

Silver Hint of Spice at the Glass of Bubbly Awards 2022

‘Does any (Traditional Method) Sparkling Wine region influence you?’

“Champagne (of course) and England. The Champagne region has been hugely successful in creating a brand which everyone in the world knows and admires. England has taken much of the experience from that region and striven to produce wines, often using the same varieties, wine-making techniques and even similar geology. I believe we can learn the lesson that attention to detail is essential in producing high quality wines, that having a clearly defined identity is powerful, and that growth can be achieved rapidly where there is a will to succeed. At the same time, we can avoid the pitfall of attempting to copy and instead produce traditional method sparkling wines which are delicious and different.” – Andy Mounsey

 

Image Credit: WalesDragonCastleSheepConway Castle