Promised to report back on our visit to the Greyfriars Vineyard and winery, so here goes.
Not an easy place to find, as the tour took place at their Monkhatch site, just off the A3 outside Guildford. We were greeted by James, who also also led the tour and tasting in a very entertaining and informative style.
Their original vineyard was an acre of chardonnay planted in 1989. Now there are 62000 vines in 40 acres producing 80,000 to 100,000 bottles a year.
There is a winery onsite. We were told that, of the 900-odd commercial vineyards in the UK, only 10 have such a facility. Most of the slopes here are south facing chalk slopes.
We tasted 5 wines, at various locations around the site.
First off was the Blanc de Blancs 2015 vintage, which has spent 5 years on its lees. Cooking apples, very acidic. None of the advertised brioche flavours hit me. This is 100% chardonnay, no Seyval Blanc.
Rose Brut NV
100% pinot noir, being a blend of the 2017, 2018 and 2019 vintages. This has spent 3 years on lees and 30% of the base wine has seen some oak, so there are some creamy notes to it. Available at Waitrose. IWC 2019 best sparkling rose in the world apparently.
In the winery, dominated by 12hl, 50hl and 100hl stainless steel tanks, we tasted some sauvignon blanc that was undergoing its malolactic fermentation. One sample had had 3 weeks malo and the other 10 weeks. The 3 weeks sample was noticeably sweeter, more residual sugar, we were informed.
Next up, the Blanc de Noirs X 2017 vintage.
100% pinot noir, the first fermentation done in barrel. Red fruit, apples. Still not much in the way of patisserie flavours. Again, mouth-wateringly acidic.
On to the still wines on offer, starting with the Greyfriars Rose. 2021 was a tough year, they struggled to ripen the grapes, but one particular part of the vineyard yielded ripened grapes and this wine was created, a blend of mainly pinot noir with 28% pinot meunier and 8% chardonnay. 30% of it is reserve wine that has been in Sherry casks.
Finally, the Pinot Gris 2021 “Yvonne”.
Actually 68% pinot gris and 32% chardonnay from a solera tank. I found the acidity overwhelmed all other flavours.
Some things we learned from the very informative tour:
Only 15% of the grapes are harvested by hand. Machine harvesting leaves the grape bunch stalks on the vine, as in the pic. Something that had never occurred to me.
Vegan friendly yeasts are used at the winery.
The first fermentation is done at 19 to 21°C in (mostly) stainless steel vats.
Malo undergone. 10 weeks max.
Fining is done with enzymes.
Sulphite is added.
The chalk cave where the wines are aged was dug out of the hillside. 9,500 tonnes of chalk were excavated to make it and it now holds 250,000 bottles.
Up to 12g per litre dosage is added and bottles are topped up with reserve wine from the first fermentation.
Overall, we really enjoyed the tour but did not feel inclined to buy any of the wines, much as we would have liked to support our local winery.