Camel Valley – a worthy detour for any visitor to Cornwall
The picture of smiling visitors enjoying a glass of wine in the evening sun on the terrace at Camel Valley overlooking the vineyards is probably one of the most familiar to people with any interest in wines from our shores. In fact the number of people with barely a passing interest in English and Welsh wines who say “Oh, yes I’ve been to Camel Valley” is testament to the time this producer has been established in what is largely a very young industry as well as to the quality and growing reputation of their wines.
An impressively frequent daily tour is run every weekday in the season. From looking at their website and following them on social media, it’s clear that the Wednesday evening Grand Tour & Tasting is the prestige product and includes “a fun wine tasting session” of at least 5 wines; unfortunately it simply wasn’t possible for me to be there on a Wednesday, so we set off from near St Ives on a bright and chilly Monday lunchtime.
My friend and photographer Rob and I have been to a fair few vineyards between us and although it’s fun to see behind the scenes, which I am sometimes fortunate enough to be invited to do, or have to do if a producer isn’t open regularly, we booked online for the 2:30 tour. It’s really not far from the A30 (the east-most Wadebridge exit and opposite the main turning for Eden Project), so a worthy detour to collect wine on the way to your holiday and about an hour for us from our base in West Penwith. Another great way to get there is by bicycle along the Camel Trail.
On arrival, we checked in at reception and were offered a glass of wine from a small selection before or after our tour (or upgrade for £1 to a glass of fizz, the £1 going to Cornwall Air Ambulance). We were nice and early so enjoyed our glass on the terrace overlooking the vines.
We’d been told that Bob (Founder) or Sam Lindo (Winemaker) normally lead the tours, but on the day we arrived, Clio was our guide. We both thought it was an excellent tour – winegrowing and making explained in a way that was clear enough to understand if you have no previous knowledge, yet interesting enough if you do. She was also particularly good with the two young boys in the tour and I’m sure they enjoyed their visit almost as much as their parents did.
We saw Bob’s vines and those of his wife Annie clearly labelled; Annie famously prunes all her own herself – these are Seyval Blanc and go into the beautifully complex yet approachable “Annie’s Anniversary” which is a regular award winner and, in my experience, a sure-fire way to convert sceptics to English wines.
From walking along the top row of the vines with Clio explaining about the history of the vineyard as we went, the group headed up to the winery. It was all a bit busy and noisy with bottling in progress, but that only served to show that this is a working winery, not just a tourist attraction.
While a number of still wines are produced at Camel Valley, sparkling wines are an increasing speciality, especially with Winemaker Sam having been short listed as International Sparkling Winemaker of the Year by the IWC in 2014.
Heading back to the Cellar Door shop, those who hadn’t had their glass of wine chose and some of us (who were lucky enough not to be driving that day, thanks Rob!) had another. There is no café, but a few snacks available to buy and visitors are welcome to take them out on the terrace with bowls, etc. provided, which is a nice compromise. There was no pushing to buy wine to take home, but with such a fine selection it’s almost impossible to resist.
With the second generation doing so well and third generation growing up in this fabulous environment, combined with the reputation of the Lindo family for fair play, you can only feel that this is a wine producer with a long and successful life ahead of it.
Personally, I would have loved a tutored tasting, so I think my advice is to make sure you pop in on your way past to collect wine for your holiday (and on the way back as well to stock up for home, if necessary!) or as a trip out from elsewhere in Cornwall. If you can possibly make it on a sunny Wednesday evening (tours start at 5:30 and run on Thursdays too in August) then do so – that’s what I’ll be aiming for next time I’m down that way.
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