Red Wine Tasting

Start exploring the wonderful world of red wine in this 90 minute tasting session.

White Wine Tasting

Begin your journey into the depths of the white wines of the world in this 90 minute tasting session.

Climate Tasting

Journey across the world with this 90 minute horizontal tasting session showing how different grape growing climates can affect the final wine. 

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Woodchester Valley – Festive Fizz

When you think of Christmas Eve dates, what do you think of? Candlelit dinners, coffee shop afternoons, last minute whizzing around the shops together? For me, I couldn’t think of anything more perfect than an afternoon wandering around vineyards and partaking in a sparkling wine tasting, and that’s exactly how I spent my Christmas Eve.

The afternoon started with a glass of their refreshing Cotswold Classic 2018, an easy drinking sparkling wine made with 75% Seyval Blanc and 25% Pinot Blanc that has been lees aged for 18 months, and a brief history of the origin of Woodchester and its three vineyard sites, then a tour around the vineyard itself, where we met the resident vineyard cat, Sinbad, through the grounds to the grape press, and then into the winery. 

Did you know?

Sparkling wines made in England may only be classified as English Sparkling Wine if made using the ‘traditional method’ whereby still wine is poured into the bottle along with a liqueur de tirage (a blend of sugar and yeast) to create a second fermentation in bottle. This is then crown capped and the yeast converts the sugar into alcohol and most importantly in this process, CO2 is produced. Once this fermentation has taken place the bottles are then slowly rotated, this is a process known as riddling or remuage in French, originally this was a process done entirely by hand but now gyro-palettes are used. Each cage holds 504 individual ferments and the bottles takes a week to rotate, in comparison by hand it can take 30 days until they are upside down and the sediment is in the neck of the bottle. The bottles are then disgorged to remove the lees sediment and topped up with identical wine (dosage- this is done to not only top-up the wine, it helps balance the acidity and in some styles adds sweetness) before receiving its final cork.

When we went back into the tasting rooms our tables had been laid with a festive selection of nibbles to enjoy with the wines and the second sparkling wine of the day was brought out. A newly released 2016 Blanc de Blancs, with 100% Chardonnay that has been barrel aged for 3 months and then gone through 36 months of lees ageing.

What are Lees?

Lees are the dead yeast cells and other particles remaining in a wine after fermentation. It is a common practice to deliberately leave sparkling wines in contact with the lees for an extended period of time after fermentation. This is called lees ageing.

The third (generously sized) sparkling wine of the day, which came out as our favourite, albeit a close call, was their Reserve Cuvée. A blend of the classic Champagne grape varieties, this specific sparkling wine contains 49% Pinot Noir, 36% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Meunier, that has spent time barrel fermenting before being lees aged for 24 months in the bottle, the result of which has produced a beautiful sparkling wine with aromas of red fruit such as cranberry and a subtle red apple taste that lingers in the palate.

The fourth sparkling wine we were treated to trying (not quite on the floor yet!) was the Rosé Brut 2017, this one was a Wine GB 2020 Gold Medal winner, and you could taste it! It was the first to feature a blend of 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Meunier, and experienced a lees ageing of at least 15 months. This sparkling wine had delicate aromas of red fruits such as raspberry and strawberry which followed through beautifully on the palate.

One of the things I think I love most about this vineyard is they know and play to their strengths, they show a clear (and passionate) understanding of the affects of cool climates on the grapes and as a result they focus on producing the best quality sparkling wines and still white wines, and only when they feel there has been an exceptional grape growing season and harvest do they produce red wines, and this is evident in their Atcombe Red 2018. Whilst still being a very youthful cool climate red, the ageing in both stainless steel fermentation tanks and French oak barrels has brought about the complex aromas of red fruit, with a hint of vanilla, whilst combining a sweet berry taste with a vibrant acidity that balances out beautifully. I personally have found English red wines to be lacking depth of flavour and body to them, but I can imagine drinking this red slightly chilled on a hot summers evening watching the sun set.

Did you know?

William of Malmesbury wrote in about 1125 that the wines from the Vale of Gloucester were of a comparable sweetness to those from France.

If you fancy a trip to this vineyard, or treating yourself to their fantastic collection of Sparkling and Still wines, then visit them here: Woodchester Valley Vineyard