Stourport-on-Severn DY13 0RU
Lat / Long: 52.305026, -2.288390
Vineyard description: Freely draining slightly acid loamy soils over 5 hectares. (Soilscape 6).
Grapes: Bacchus, Kerner, Madeleine Angevine, Pinot Noir, Siegerrebe.
It is said (by Astley on their informatively comprehensive website) that this vineyard just across the Worcestershire border was once the most northerly in the world, though I’m not entirely convinced you could ever be sure of that.
But it is an indication of either how much more adventurous the wine producers of the UK have become, or that yes actually, we’re in the midst of some major climate change event.
At around 50 years old, it shares a common characteristic with vineyards such as Penarth as far away as Newtown in mid-Wales and Wroxeter in the heart of Shropshire in that it sits in the valley of the River Severn.
Established in 1971, it’s heading for one of those big birthdays with a zero on the end very soon. Astley was always something of a trendsetter, being one of the first to plant varieties such as Madeleine Angevine and Siegerrebe in the UK.
Having passed through the influence of winemaker Jonty Daniels for nearly a quarter of a century, the vineyard was bought in 2017 by the Haywood family, recently retired finance director Tim and his wife, Bev, with their son and daughter-in-law, Chris and Matleena Haywood and daughter Daisy.
Interestingly, Jonty Daniels’ LinkedIn profile now describes him as ‘tractor driver at Astley Vineyards’, so he seems to be keeping his hand in.
Now the Haywoods have embraced Astley completely. Tim looks after viticulture and estate management, Bev keeps the whole thing together from a business and wine perspective, Chris looks after sales and is the estate’s wine man while his wife Matleena takes care of the accounts. Landscape architect Daisy is in charge of sustainability.
Astley’s website, run by Chris, is a testament to their values as a family and a committed local grower of wine.
Proudly in and of Worcestershire, they’re happy to share their inclusive ‘wine production as a lifestyle’ philosophy and to take other local businesses along with them.
The website talks a lot about the values of the family as a business and a wine producer, in terms of sharing and education, supporting other local businesses, sustainability and reducing impact on the environment and, finally and not least, remaining ‘approachable, friendly and personal’.
And their commitment to sustainability has been demonstrated by the establishment of their own winery in 2018 under the guidance of winemaker Simon Day.
The first baby delivered by the on-site nursery was their Branwen 2018, a 40-40 blend of blush late harvest Siegerrebe, and Madeleine Angevine which also features some Pinot Noir and dry Siegerrebe. Also new is the Kerner 2018.
Their mission: “To make wine as inclusive as possible. We will never make customers feel inadequate or unwelcome. There are no silly questions. We want people to feel our passion, and hopefully enjoy wine, and all food and drink, as much as we do.”
In terms of ‘get it while you can’ wine, Astley’s Old Vine Kerner 2014 only had a production of 300 bottles. At £30 a pop, it’s not cheap, and Astley suggest it’s probably best savoured as an aperitif or with pork and other white meats.
Halfpenny Green Wine Estate
Bobbington, Stourbridge, DY7 5EP
Lat / Long: 52.530329, -2.251639
Vineyard description: 10.2 hectares on sloping freely draining, slightly acid sandy soil (Soilscape 10). Low fertility.
Grapes: Bacchus, Chardonnay, Dornfelder, Huxelrebe, Madeleine Angevine, Ortega, Pinot Noir, Regent, Regner, Rondo, Seyval Blanc, Schönburger.
Wroxeter Roman Vineyard
Wroxeter, Shrewsbury SY5 6PQ
Lat / Long: 52.667877, -2.643463
Vineyard description: Around 2.7 hectares of low fertility freely draining, slight acid loamy soil near the strategically significant Viriconium roman settlement close to the confluence of the River Tern and River Severn to the south of Attingham Park on the eastern side of Shrewsbury.
Grapes: Dornfelder, Madeleine Angevine, Phoenix, Regent, Reichensteiner, Regner, Rondo, Solaris
UPDATE 24/07/2020: I keep meaning to contact Martin Millington for a chat about Wroxeter's place in the wider picture of wine-making in Shropshire through the legacy of his pioneering dad, David.
In lieu of that, I did nip into Wroxeter during part two of my grand Shropshire wine tour today.
Martin was busy with a socially distanced, but nonetheless well attended, wine tasting, but it was a pleasure to meet his wife, Amanda (Mandy to those who know her well, apparently) for a brief chat while picking up a bottle or three for sampling.
Like Ram Chahal later at Rodington, she was telling me how the vineyard had been affected by the April frost.
It will be interesting to see how folks recover. Let's hope for some decent wine-making weather for the rest of the summer.