We find out more about Wayford Vineyard near Crewkerne.
Nestled just outside Crewkerne, on the Somerset/Dorset border is Wayford Vineyard. It was founded almost 15 years ago, back in 2007, by a group of 10 neighbours who decided to try their hands at viticulture. That first year was a real labour of love, with the group painstakingly planting 4,000 Pinot Noir vines by hand. Over the years they carefully tended the vines as they grew — each member of the team caring for a section on the vineyard – pruning the vines, mowing the field, repairing posts and wire, killing weeds — trying to ensure that conditions were just right to produce the best possible grapes to be turned into the best possible sparkling wines, all the while dreaming of the first Wayford vintage. The time and effort paid off, and eventually they were able to create their first vintage — a 2014 sparkling wine. Since then, the wine has gone on to win bronze, silver and gold awards in the Wine-GB West Competition. One of the group, Clare Challis, said, “Pinot Noir is a notoriously difficult vine to grow, but it produces an exceptional sparkling wine – it is one of grapes used to make Champagne.
“We now have a similar climate to the Champagne region 10 years ago, but our soil is not the same as the chalky terroir of the
Champagne region but a mix of clay and green sand with some underground springs that pop up in the vineyard. But still the vines thrive and it is these differences of soil type across the south west that give each vineyard its own distinct taste and aroma.”
Wine making in the West Country comes with its own set of challenges.
“The south west has a great reputation for making excellent still and sparkling wines, we have perfect weather conditions most years, though last year we lost our whole crop to a late frost in May,” said Clare. “But this is just the first worry in a growing season. But there has been no frost this year.
“Rabbits, pheasants and the deer can also cause us problems as they find the new shoots a tasty breakfast though picturesque from the window.
“As the vines grow, they put on lots of leaf growth almost in front of our eyes, an important job is to remove the lower leaves to allow the sun to ripen the grapes and to allow the air to circulate as if we have wet muggy air we can end up with downy mildew which will also affect the harvest.
“We test the grapes to get a balance between the sugars and acids, this is how we know they are ready to pick — although a less scientific way is when the blackbirds start to eat them, we know they are ready!”
Each Wayford vintage is subtley different. The variability in the weather each year creates a natural variability in the wine from vintage to vintage. Wayford wines are also stored and matured on the lees (a technique frequently used in sparkling wines which involves leaving the wine in contact with the yeast cells left over from the fermentation process) which provides
character, and even more subtle differences in complexity from vintage to vintage.
“We are looking forward to the release of our 2018 vintage, as that was an exceptional year,” said Clare. “And we will have our first sparkling rosé available this summer too.
“The summer of 2018 gave the perfect summer conditions for a bumper grape harvest, plenty of rain to swell the grapes early in the season and a long hot summer to ripen them. We have only tasted the 2018 ourselves with our wine maker and think it reflects the season and the growing maturity of our vines so we hope it will be well received when entered into the SWVA
annual competition later in the year, we look forward to releasing this wine for sale around Christmas time and are enjoying our 2017 vintage at the moment which is drinking well according to our customers.”
“We only ever use our own grapes to make our sparkling wine, and our wine is made using the traditional secondary fermentation method.
“We are passionate about our vines and the wines they produce, and we think our wine has an aroma, character and flavour which makes it the very best!”