Denbies Wine Estate, Award Winning English Wine.
Denbies Wine Estate, London Road, Dorking, Surrey RH5 6AA
The International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) is proudly sponsored by Denbies Wine Estate and last month I was lucky enough to have been invited out to Denbies Wine Estate just a few minutes’ drive from Dorking train station, which is under an hour away from London in the Surrey countryside.
I went in the spirit of adventure, not knowing what to expect or really not having any preconceptions. The only thing I do know is English wine is no longer some eccentric joke but probably to the surprise of many wine experts around the world, becoming a niche but quality produce and now is winning awards right across the board.
To put this in context English wine is less than 1% of French production, but nonetheless is now fast becoming a British success story. There are approximately 500 wine makers in the UK, but bear in mind not all have wine making facilities. All of the main supermarkets are now stocking English wine and have been used on the tables of Royal functions, so you hardly think Queen Elizabeth would be embarrassing her international guests with a substandard product. In general it’s the sparkling wines that’s have really been catching the pundits praise, apparently down to our cool climate and chalky soil.
Arriving by train at Dorking train station it’s only a 5 minute drive to the vineyard. I had not returned to Dorking for probably over 30 years, when my memories were of country pubs and teenage romances. Yes indeed I grew up in the Surrey Hills, and there are indeed wonderful pubs and lots of teenage romances …. Yes yes Michael ….. I think they have the point…..
Anyway I was due to share my day with some true wine experts, so I tried to look professional and convincing about my knowledge of all things grape.
As we pulled into the car park at Denbies Wine Estate the buildings, some of them new and some definitely old, those of the old farmhouse, are positioned giving it certainly the impression of a chateau. It is really if you go up to the restaurant where you will see the beautiful view over the rooftops looking out over the vineyards and woods beyond.
For myself and anyone visiting I thinks it’s all about some relaxation, good food, fresh country area, choices of multiple experiences and a good tipple or two.
You can stay there, pick grapes, get married, go on wine tours, buy wine, take part in wine tasting, and eat in either the café/restaurant
or the more bespoke restaurant upstairs. In addition there is a shop and multiple other choices.
We started with coffee and biscuits then we were put to work.
Walking up past the old farm buildings you are only minutes away from the grapes themselves, and for a world that has so much mystique about it, there is certainly a spirituality and calmness about the place but also the act itself.
For I suppose about an hour and a half we picked with some of the estate pickers, who come from a mixture of backgrounds but the group we were with, were they by choice and had been on the rat race, been there and done it.
It’s about choosing grapes that are a grey colour.
Denbies started in the 80’s converted from a farm, who had been told they had the right soil for making good wine. From any perspective the variety of activities on show are impressive and if one was judging them on business acumen, I would be saying that not much has passed them by.
After our hard toils in the fields!! It was time for some good English fair.
There is certainly a feeling then Denbies wants to promote the finer elements of English food and drink so lunch was a fantastic array of local and fresh English produce whilst sampling a bottle of Denbies Redlands red wine (50 % Pinot Noir, 25% Dornfelder, 25% Rondo.
Followed by a good portion of English Apple Pie. If this was the terms of contract for grape picking, I must try this more often.
Afterwards we went on a very interactive and interesting wine tour which starts with a movie in their surround screen video experience.
We had earlier been discussing one of the two great wine films “A good Year” and “Sideways”.
I will not go into every detail of the tour but suffice to say there are things to learn whether you are a novice or wine aficionado.
Then downstairs for the wine tasting itself. Well it’s tough but someone has to do it.
If you have been inspired you can drop by their small garden centre and pick a vine to take home, which is exactly what I did and look forward to seeing this bear fruit.
For myself and Gentlemans Butler this is a perfect luxury experience, perfect for a range of ages, where you can eat, drink, learn and take part in a country pursuit, only one that is somewhat newer to the English countryside, but one I feel will be here for a long time to come.
Most enjoyable and rewarding.
For all wine lover’s the following could be of interest
Established in 1969, The International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) was the first competition of its kind, set up to seek out, reward and promote the world’s best wines, spirits and liqueurs. Now in its 46th year, The IWSC’s relentless pursuit of excellence underpins every aspect of the competition today. Their panels of carefully selected industry experts comprise Masters of Wine, buyers, sommeliers, WSET qualified educators and respected wine journalists. Every single wine is assessed on its own merits within the context of its class. Currently receiving entries from around 90 countries, the IWSC is truly international in its reach and recognition. For the full list of Spirit winners or more information, visit: www.iwsc.net