Fringe Box



Feature: Optimism is the Seasonal Bouquet in Our Local Vineyards

Published on: 8 Oct, 2018
Updated on: 10 Oct, 2018

Autumn at Albury Vineyard

By Amina Sahbegovic

It’s autumn and as the leaves fall, temperatures drop and days shorten, moods can be depressed. But not in our local vineyards.

This year optimism is in the air. Guildford’s winemakers are busy harvesting grapes to create even higher quality, individual wines.

Grapes were ready to be picked really early this year and Albury expects its biggest ever harvest

The harvest started sooner than usual and the warm conditions this summer have raised hope for 2018 to be a benchmark vintage for Surrey wines.

Pewley Down, a small back garden family-run vineyard, started its harvest as early as September 13, while two other local vineyards, Greyfriars and Albury, also started their earliest harvest ever, just a week later.

Pewley down vineyard owner Mark Hargreaves

This is welcome news after 2017. It was a difficult year following the spring frost. But our weather is not the only factor raising optimism for Guildford’s wine industry.

Greyfriars vineyard has expanded significantly in recent years

In recent years, the South of England has seen more of its land covered with Champagne varieties grapes. As the climate is cool, the region is most suitable for sparkling wine with grapes varieties such as pinot noir, pinot meunier, and chardonnay.

With most vineyards on an angle facing south, heat is amplified, enabling grapes to take in as much English sun as possible.

The vines after being harvest, this year has been the earliest harvest ever for Pewley Down who picked grapes beginning of September. The vineyard is at the far end of Hargreaves’ family backgarden.

Pewley Down wines currently available

Pewley Down, first planted in 2007, created its first commercial bottle in 2013. Mark Hargreaves, owner, for whom wine is more a passion than a business, believes that there is “plenty of opportunity and scope in the market for local wines”.

At Greyfriars, planting started in 1989. It also focuses on sparkling varieties, although also makes a still pinot gris.

This year, Mike Wagstaff, owner, estimates to produce as much as 150 tonnes, 25 more than last year. Using the traditional champagne method, Greyfriars has won multiple awards and was this year awarded two gold medals for its Blanc de Blanc and its Chardonnay.

Pickers at the end of the row at Albury

Albury is a 12-acre family-run vineyard which is organic and one the three biodynamic vineyards in the UK. It employs biodynamic methods both to grow the fruit and during the post-harvest processing. Although Albury focuses on sparkling, it has a go at still wine too with its “Silent Pool” rosé made from both pinot noir and pinot meunier.

Greyfriars owner Mike Wagstaff will soon be exporting to California

Both Greyfriars and Albury are part of the association Vineyards of Surrey Hills along with Denbies Wine Estate and others. The association will be officially launched next year. The hope is to combine winemaking and tourism with walking tours in the South Downs, wine festivals, and other events.

The all important label. Greyfriars grow, produces and sells its wines on the vineyard.

While Greyfriars, established in UK markets, will soon start exporting to California, Albury keeps on expanding its wine nationally in Michelin restaurants.

For vineyards across Surrey, the English wine industry seems to be on a roll. Lucy Letley Albury’s Marketing and Events Manager said, “English wine was a joke 20 years ago. The last couple of years it has increased in media and keeps on winning awards.”

The 2018 harvest looking good

For further information see websites:

Albury Organic Vineyard

Greyfriars Vineyard

Pewley Down Vineyard


Share This Post

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *