Now there’s a famous saying that you shouldn’t mention politics and religion in the same sentence whilst in the presence of friends. Times have changed…. In the run up to the exit of Europe we should be discussing and lobbying the Government on this fragile but very successful industry. Not only do we had 397 vineyards ( 27 in Wales.) But we are not currently championing home grown talent. When was the last time you went into a pub and had the choice of ordering extensive UK wine. Where is the loyalty ! Who wouldn’t want to pay £14.99 (retail) for a UK produced wine. Just this weekend (28/10/18) i went into a farm shop and although they had some UK wine and spirits products IT was a poor advert for a great industry.
British sparkling wine , however, has seen a resurgence in recent years and has even taken on Champagne producers and sparkling wine estates with great effect. UK wines are on the cusp of becoming notably international. Always been the country that produced laughable wine. Now we are a force to be reckoned with. 2018 has seen a bumper harvest. (UK Report )
Oatley vineyard is one such place. Great vineyard producing fabulous wines
Jane and Ian upsticked in 1985 from west London and moved to Somerset – Investing not only a new life but also £350 on a 1951 Ferguson T20 tractor.
What a beauty ( not the exact one but you get the idea ! )
Having had a few facelifts in its long life they used the tractor to help sow the seeds (sorry!) for the future. In the initial days both of them worked long hours and sacrificed blood ,sweat and tears. Vines soon flourished and 3 years later (usually the time it take vines to produce fruit (grapes)), on the 5th November 1988, the vineyard came alive.
In the early days the reward for helping with the harvest was bread and cheese for the harvest workers, now its a 4 course meal with the estates wine. Just shows how far the vineyard has come !
The vineyard is situated in the SW on England , just south of Wales. It is only 1 Ha or 2.47 acres or 1x International sized rugby pitch
The vineyard aims to use very little herbicides, using good husbandry to minimise the need for fungicides. To produce dry wines that reflect the vines, the place and the year both Jane and Ian
– use minimum intervention winemaking and low levels of sulphur;
– use lower weight bottles to keep our carbon footprint low;
– use high quality traditional corks to help maintain the important mixed cork oak ecology in Portugal;
– sell mainly directly within the southwest of England: low “wine miles’;
– maintain our old vines in good health for as long as we can, keeping our traditional aromatic vine varieties;
– promote biodiversity by letting our alleys come up to seed in May and June, letting our hedges grow and maintaining a wild area next to the vineyard
– stay small and make only wines that we like to drink, from vines tended mainly by our own hands.
Their philosophy is to manage the vines meticulously so as to minimise disease through vine management and minimise artificial controls. They use no herbicides and promote biodiversity and try to have a low carbon footprint (see points above)
Most years they produce two dry white wines from their two grape varieties. Kernling and Madelaine Angevine
Kernling is a white grape variety, which originated from mutation from the grape variety Kerner. Whilst Madeleine Angevine is a white wine grape from the loire valley in France. It is also popular in Germany, Kyrgyzstan and Washington State,USA. Madeleine Angevine is a fruity wine with a flowery nose similar to an Alsatian Pinot Blanc. It is crisp, acid and dry and pairs particularly well with seafoods such as crab and oyster
Oatley Vineyard’ Range – Leonora’s and Jane’s.
“Leonora’s” wines are dry and elegant, similar to a dry Riesling in style. They can be drunk young but develop in the bottle, showing complex honey
overtones when approaching four years old or more. made from Kernling grapes, a first cross from Riesling that ripens to pink – it is the pink clone of the better-known Kerner grape.
“Jane’s” wines, from golden Madeleine Angevine grapes are light and crisp with a flower-scented nose
and citrus notes, sometimes with a hint of elderflower and on the finish, gooseberry. Delightful as an aperitif, for a party, in a summer garden or just for a refreshing glass at home. Best drunk young and fresh, within 2-3 years. Often likened to a restrained Sauvignon Blanc in style.
Every now and then they produce a blend of the two varietals, named “Elizabeth’s” after their daughter. These wines, when available, make good wines to pair with food with the structure of the Kernling coupled with upfront fruit from the Madeleine,
Oatley has one French oak barrel, hand-coopered by Master Cooper Alastair Sims. It is light-toasted and fine-grained – from the Tronçais forest – for subtlety.
A small amount of wine was used to make barrel matured wine between 2010-2015. From 2016 onwards a new barrel was used , a barrique from Seguin Moreau of Cognac, known as a “Fraicheur”, made especially for light varietals, with fine grained French oak staves, very light toast and heads made from acacia rather than oak, to add a little brightness to the flavour. In 2016 they won a trophy for their endeavours.
Their winemaker is Steve Brooksbank, at Bagborough, near Shepton Mallet where he destems, crushes and presses the grapes for Oatley. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks. Which lessens the influence of oak – so wine is clean and fresh. They also use lighter weight, (400g) bottles to keep our wines’ carbon footprint down. Everything that they do at Oatley is for the sustainability and the lesser impact on the environment
A very noble thing to do.
The Grape Wizard Geeky stuff
In 2011 EU wine legislation went through a few changes and there are now 4 distinct categories of wine that all vineyards have to adhere to if they want to put certain descriptions on the label
NON PDO/PGI still wines (Varietal )
NON PDO/PGI Sparkling wines (WINES)
Oatley vineyard has the honour of having all its wines at PDO level. English Wine PDO is the highest quality standard for English wines. English Regional Wine PGI is of similar technical standard but can include wine from hybrid vines and wines with no, or little, added sulphites.
Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) denotes
• Quality and characteristics that are essentially or exclusively attributable to the geographical environment in which it is produced
• The grapes have been grown exclusively in the defined region (ie England/Wales) and are only of the Vitis Vinifera genus
• The production of the wine takes place in the defined region (England/Wales)
Wines will be labelled English (or Welsh) Quality Wine.
Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) denotes
• Wines produced under this scheme must possess a specific quality, reputation or other characteristics attributable to the geographical origin
• At least 85% of grapes used for its production have been grown in the defined region (ie England/Wales), with the rest from the UK, and are of the Vitis Vinifera genus or a cross of Vitis Vinifera and another genus of Vitis (therefore allowing hybrid varieties such as Seyval Blanc)
• The production of the wine takes place in the named area (England/Wales)
Wines will be labelled English (or Welsh) Regional Wine
NON PDO/PGI still/ sparkling wines (Varietal )
Can be labelled as ‘varietal wine’.
NON PDO/PGI Sparkling/still wines (WINES)
This wine has not passed through one of the above categories in the UK Quality Wine Schemes and does not have to have been tested.
Labels should be kept plain and refer to the product simply as ‘white wine’ for example. Use of the protected term ‘English’ or ‘Welsh’ or ‘English Regional’ or ‘Welsh Regional’ is NOT permitted on labels. Statements of vine variety and vintage are NOT permitted on labels. There is no testing requirement for this status.
Only Wines and Quality Sparkling Wines that have passed through the appropriate wine scheme are permitted to indicate vineyard name.
In order to gain PDO and PGI status wines are required to pass independent assessments after the wine has been bottled. Applications will be swiftly processed, enabling producers to market and sell their wines efficiently. All successful wines will be listed on the UKVA website, enabling trade and consumer customers to verify the wines they buy. Consumers and trade buyers are therefore assured that there is a system in place to ensure quality standards are met every step of the way.
Producers that opt out of putting their wines through the scheme may use the term ‘English (or Welsh) Wine’ on the label but other information is restricted; for example vineyard location cannot be included. The term ‘Table wine’ has now disappeared.
TheGrapewizard Vintage Notes for Oatley Vineyard
2014 was a top year Lots of grapes and fruit ripened sufficiently . Almost no pests and an early harvest. Some would say it was a stress free year ! Jane’s 2014 was awarded a Silver Medal in the Summer 2015 UKVA competition.
2015 Colder than 2014 , difficult year to ripen grapes The grape sugars were ok but failed to colour up and the acidity was high. Madeleine was good but the Kernling lacked intensity in the mid-palate. Decision was taken to blend the two varietal wines and producer 2015 “Elizabeth’s”.
2016 was a dream year for vine growers with rain and sun in all; the right places. “Jane’s 2016” was very popular
2017 Spring frosts with warm dry summer let to lower than expected volumesThe Jane’s 2017 will be released in early summer 2018. The Leonora’s 2017 will be cellared for a year or two.
So Jane and Ian have kept what they believe to be true. To keep their integrity and to showcase their wines in the environment that they are grown in . Wines are sold locally, farming practices are always in the continuing improvement of the estate and only make wines when they believe that any of their 3 wines are at their best. Using their two major varietals to make a third wine when they can’t or don’t want to use Madelaine or Kernling is a good marketing tool. Although small they seem to be vert adept at getting the most out of the environment. Its testament to their ideals and beliefs.
I think if they made a sparkling wine they would do rather well at it. I hope with the bumper harvest of 2018 great things will come from the estate.