I said "Astley", not "asti"…
After a superb visit to Astley Vineyard, I popped into the award winning Checkett’s farm shop in nearby Ombersley and walked through to Juckes Fine Wines. I looked around the well-stocked shelves of interesting, quality wines. Not seeing any English wines, I enquired whether they stocked Astley Wines. “We usually have asti, but we don’t have any at the moment” came the reply. When I clarified that I was talking about their local vineyard, I was met with a blank look. It really seemed a wasted opportunity for both parties, not to mention the locals missing out on some really great wine.
I’d picked Astley as the second of my English Wine Week visits because I had very much enjoyed a bottle of Cirrus that I’d bought at Wine Pantry. There’s a tasting room at the house where my father & I enjoyed first the Madeleine Angevine. This is a favourite of mine, so a very well made wine from this grape was appealing. That was only the start, though, as we went on to try a number of other wines, each more delicious than the last, including the Veritas (Kerner) and culminating with the Late Harvest, made from Seigerrebe grapes.
The vines are across the valley from the house and the drizzly weather meant that we didn’t go over to explore, but this is a vineyard I’ll definitely be going back to. Throughout our visit Jonty Daniels, the owner, shared with us information on winemaking and anecdotes behind his wines. Jonty comes from an agricultural background and bought the property for its stunning location and land to farm, but had not previously worked in wine; this seems to have led to a pragmatic view and he has focussed on producing quality wines that express their terroir. The grapes grown include the Madeleine Angevine and Kerner that were there when they bought the property, with the other half of the vineyard made up of grapes he has chosen by experimentation, including Phoenix, Bacchus, Seigerrebe and Sauvignon Blanc. The wines are made at Three Choirs and Jonty has a reputation for frequently checking up on their progress (they are only 3o miles away, which helps!)
The wines produced each year depend on the quality and quantity of grapes. A minimum of a ton of grapes is needed to make a batch of wine on contract, so single grape wines can only be made where there are sufficient quantities. The aim, he explained, is to keep the wines totally separate for as long as possible before any blending is undertaken; even two batches of the same grape can develop differently if the naturally occurring yeasts are not quite the same. The wines are finally labelled with drawings from the archive of Jonty’s father, who was an illustrator and stills photographer in the movies in the 40s and 50s.
There’s not much to see other than a wide range of medal winning wines, so this vineyard is one for the enthusiast, rather than a generic day out. If you are organising a wedding or any other event needing wine, my advice would be to hot-foot it to Astley, taste everything on offer and buy your favourites by the case.
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