The best sparkling wine in the world!
The bright side of Wales being invaded more times than your average historian has fingers (and toes) is that we have adopted all sorts of interesting cultural influences. As the centuries have passed many of them have become our very own.
Take wine, for example. We have the Romans to thank for introducing wine to Wales; and a mere 2,000 years or so later, the Welsh Ancre Hill Estates’ 2008 vintage was voted best sparkling wine in the world at the Bollicine del Mondo International Competition in Italy. We took our time, but it was clearly worth the wait.
The Ancre Hill Estate in Monmouthshire is one of few vineyards in the UK using the ecological methods of biodynamic growing, as adopted by many of the leading estates in the world.
The first commercial vineyard in Wales was planted in 1875 near Castell Coch, the 19th century Gothic castle built on the outskirts of Cardiff by industrialist Lord Bute.
A century and a bit on there are over a dozen commercial vineyards in operation all over the country. What’s particularly appealing is that so many of them are open to the public to visit and sample the local produce at first hand. The definitive source of information is to be found at Wine Trail Wales.
Not only is Monmouthshire easily accessible for visitors to South Wales, it’s also particularly bountiful in food and drink. As well as the aforementioned Ancre Hill, the Parva Farm Vineyard has produced a number of award-winning wines on the hillside overlooking the ruins of Tintern Abbey, one of Wales’ most recognisable historic locations.
On Anglesey, Red Wharf Bay Vineyard has been making a unique wine made from a blend of UK and Spanish grapes since 2010. It's recently opened for tours and tastings, so a lovely addition to a day out at Red Wharf Bay beach.
Leave the car and stay over
The Vale of Glamorgan, 30 minutes’ drive from Cardiff, is another hotspot of activity for wine enthusiasts thanks to the rich clay soil and the relatively frost free climate.
The award-winning Cariad wines are grown on the slopes of the 22 acre Llanerch Vineyard. Llanerch is a great getaway location, with 10 rooms, a restaurant and a range of attractions including a cookery school run by respected chef Angela Gray.
Meadow View Vineyard has a pesticide free production process that produces three white wines named Gwin Y Fro (Wine of the Vale).
The Glyndwr Vineyard is the largest in Wales, producing two white wines, a rosé, a red and two vintage sparkling wines, gracing the tables at European state banquets and the House Of Lords.
Further west, the Cwm Deri Vinyard & Estate nestles amidst the splendour of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, while in Mid Wales the Penarth Vineyard produces award-winning sparkling and pink sparkling wines as well as Wales’ first grape brandy – recommended as an antidote for restless sleepers, no less.
Some of the vineyards make their own mead by fermenting honey and water, adding fruit and spices for flavour.
Celtic Country Wines in Ceredigion also produces a range of fruit wine including Elderflower, Goosberry and Raspberry Sparkling Wine. The Snowdon Honey Farm & Winery adds to the fruit wine menu with Damson, Cranberry & Ginger, Apple, Blackberry and Cherry, among others.