Monmouthshire – the wine making capital of Wales
Vineyards in Monmouthshire produce the highest quantities of wine in Wales with numbers expected to rise over the next few years.
Robb Merchant, of Abergavenny’s White Castle Vineyard, revealed said that the area accounts for up to 40,000 bottles a year – around a third of all wine vino produced in the country.
By 2020, he anticipates that the national figure will double to around 200,000, with Wales’ own Wye Valley proving an ecological hotbed for producing the goods.
“There are around 100,000 bottles produced Wales-wide a year and Monmouthshire is at the top of that pile, followed by the Vale of Glamorgan,” said Mr Merchant, who got into the industry with wife Nicola in 2008.
“I think it’s the most rewarding job you can have.
“I think Monmouthshire as a whole benefit from the Usk and Wye Valley having its own micro-climate.
“We tend to get a bit different weather to the rest of the area by a couple of degrees.”
White Castle Vineyard is one of several in the area to be renowned for its wines, recently scooping a bronze medal at this year’s UK Wine Awards for their its 2014 sparkling wine.
They are one of four local vineyards to be a part of the Welsh Vineyards Association (WVA), an organisation that Mr Merchant chairs.
Within the Monmouthshire contingent, there is fellow Abergavenny business Sugar Loaf Vineyards which is owned by Louise Ryan and Simon Bloor.
Last October, it won the Best Small Business prize at the Monmouthshire Business Awards.
All four of the WVA-registered Monmouthshire vineyards, including White Castle, picked up awards at the organisation’s annual wine competition.
The competition, held in the Vale of Glamorgan, saw 42 wines entered by nine vineyards ranging from north to south Wales.
Awards were split into five classes, with ten bronze and five silver awards made especially for the national competition.
White Castle had two entries in the red wine category, earning a bronze award as well as the Three Choirs Salver for its Pinot Noir Précoce 2014.
Monmouth’s Ancre Hill Vineyard earned a bronze for its Blanc de Blancs 2009 in the sparkling white wine category.
And Parva Farm in Tintern, Wales’ oldest vineyard, scooped four awards overall in the October contest.
Husband and wife duo Colin and Judith Dudley have been making wine at the vineyard for more than 20 years and have seen the wine-making landscape in Wales change “out of all recognition”.
“When we first started we used to have a lot of people saying ‘oh, we didn’t know that you could get wine in Wales’, and that was quite normal,” said Mrs Dudley.
“I think a lot of people don’t realise how much effort goes into a bottle of wine, it’s really hard work, and now people are generally more curious about the process.
“Whether it’s meat or wine from the supermarket, people really want to know where their produce comes from these days.”
Despite being in such close proximity to other award-winning vineyards, Mrs Dudley said it was “nice” being a part of the WVA.
She added: “It allows us to speak to other vineyard owners if we’re having any problems or to help each other. The industry has really taken off here, and it’s great to be a part of that.”