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Welsh vineyards uncork a summer of sensational wine tasting experiences

Robb Merchant - White Castle Vineyard

The Welsh wine industry is getting ready for a summer of tantalising tours and tempting tasters following a successful Welsh Wine Week, which recently celebrated its fourth year as a key industry showcase.

Featuring vineyards across Wales, the celebratory week saw over 30 events attended by industry figures from across the UK, with Welsh vineyards now gearing up to welcome tourists to experience their unique produce over the busy summer season.

With recent years seeing huge increases in the volume of wine being produced in Wales, along with a number of vineyards picking up international awards, the future of the industry looks bright as it targets a tenfold increase in value to £100m by 2035.

However, it’s not only about the award-winning wine as Welsh vineyards become an increasingly important part of the visitor economy. A number of vineyards are increasingly focusing on wider experiences such as tours and tastings, allowing people to admire the stunning views whilst strolling among the vines, and discovering more about viticulture and even staying the night.

One of the vineyards that took part in Welsh Wine Week was White Castle Vineyard in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire. With the first vines planted in 2009, the boutique vineyard is now a leading producer of high-quality wines and focuses strongly on sustainability.

Owned and managed by Robb and Nicola Merchant, the vineyard currently produces around 10,000 bottles, rising to around 30,000 bottles in the next 3-4 years. With breath-taking views, the vineyard has already gained a reputation for producing award winning wines and is brimming with innovation.

This includes being the first Welsh vineyard to win a Gold Award in the Decanter World wine awards, along with boasting the first successful Cabernet Franc red wine in the UK.

Speaking of the vineyard’s plans for the summer season, Robb said: “We are looking forward to welcoming visitors to our vineyard this summer. We love sharing our passion for wine with everyone – from serious wine lovers to wine tasting novices and hope to make the vineyard a place where our local community can be proud.

“We have a lot of exciting developments here such as an on-site winery for vintage 2024. We can now manage the whole production process, from grape to bottle, and offer a distinctive attraction for visitors and customers while proudly marketing the wines as a genuine Welsh wine. Also, we were delighted earlier this year to become the first vineyard in the UK to successfully produce Cabernet Franc, which marked a significant milestone for British winemaking.”

Meanwhile, relatively new to the Welsh wine scene is St Hilary Vineyard in the Vale of Glamorgan. The vines were planted in 2021 on premium farmland between an apple orchard and a wildflower meadow, with the first full harvest in October 2023.

Owners Peter and Liz Loch currently have three varieties of grape at the vineyard, namely Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and operate on low intervention, organic principles.

Liz said: “We are very excited about launching our debut wine in September this year, which will be a 2023 vintage Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier Rosé. Our aim at St Hilary is to produce delicious, artisan Welsh wines which reflect the stunning surroundings of the vineyard.

“It’s so exciting to be part of the growing industry and there are new vineyards popping up all the time. Being relatively small, we’re all really passionate about what we do, and we look forward to playing our part in growing the industry further and showing what low-intervention, quality wines can be produced on people’s doorsteps in Wales.”

Lauren Smith, from the Welsh Government funded Drinks Cluster said, “I’m delighted that Welsh Wine Week proved to be another resounding success, with some of our leading vineyards playing a starring role in the celebrations ahead of what I’m sure will be a busy summer season.

“Through the Welsh Wine Strategy, there are ambitious targets to grow the industry over the coming years, and it’s fantastic to see the successes that some of our vineyards are currently experiencing. Whether it’s the first production of Cabernet Franc in the UK, or a recent Welsh Government funded project with partner vineyards to be more sustainable and reducing the use of synthetic chemicals, our vineyards are at the forefront of new and innovative developments.”