Monmouthshire’s White Castle Vineyard scoops top prize against global rivals in prestigious blind tasting award
Last modified on Wed 7 Jul 2021 01.02 EDT
First it was English winemakers that had vineyards in traditional wine-making regions such as France looking over their shoulder, now it is Wales, after a “deliciously fresh” pinot noir from Monmouthshire scooped a prestigious wine award.
White Castle Vineyard’s “pinot noir reserve 2018”, a red wine that costs £25.50 a bottle, has become the first Welsh vintage to win a gold medal in the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA).
Robb Merchant, a former Royal Mail worker who runs White Castle with his wife, Nicola, a retired nurse, described the win as “fantastic” for the vineyard which had been his “wife’s dream” to establish.
“This is the biggest prize we have ever won,” he said. “This is the first time we have entered the Decanter awards. It is judged blind so, for us, this win really underpins what we have been striving to do in terms of quality.”
The couple bought a field next to their smallholding in 2008 and planted 4,000 vines the following year. It has since expanded to 7,000 vines and produces 10,000 bottles a year.
The pinot noir is described as “deliciously fresh” by the DWWA co-chair Sarah Jane Evans. “It has got a lovely cherry red fruit character. It’s a really elegant, fresh wine. It’s delicious and the fact it comes from Wales is a bonus.”
The competition awarded 635 gold medals, with judges tasting more than 18,000 wines from 56 countries. Gold medals were hard won, said Evans, as winning wines had to “stand up on their own two feet” against competition from all over the world.
“We’re used to the UK making white wines but what is interesting is they have made a red wine, which people have always said with the UK climate was impossible,” added Evans.
English winemakers have won widespread recognition in recent years, particularly for the quality of their sparkling wines, and their haul from this year’s DWWA included Kent producer Squerryes winning one of just 50 “best in show” medals.
While some wine drinkers may be unfamiliar with Welsh wine it is not new, with the Scottish industrialist Lord Bute credited with planting the first commercial vineyard at Castell Coch, north of Cardiff, in 1875. Today there are 31 vineyards growing more than 20 different grape varieties, and many wine trails aimed at tourists.
Marchant said the couple planned to build on their success by continuing to expand White Castle and urged people to experiment with Welsh wine: “Try it. Go and visit the vineyards and taste the wines because you’ll taste some exceptional wines.”
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