This tour of Camel Valley Vineyard was something we had been meaning to do for a while…we got off on slightly the wrong footing when we took the wrong road to get there ( I was pilot, F. was navigator, enough said!). Still we made it in time for the tour (every weekday at 2.30pm April to September). The lanes we drove down to get there were beautiful…green, wooded, hilly, with streams, bridges, nice villages, and we were delighted with our first sight of the vineyard…..
We waited inside the shop for the start of the tour and that was fascinating in itself with interesting background information, the signatures of famous visitors ( no Marcus Pierre White!), and the wines and the trophies they have won on display. And what recognition they have had in the world of wine….a superb manifestation of the quality of English wine.
Anyway the tour started with a quick background history of the site and the family by the effervescent and high quality Samuel as the guide. We then walked over the electric
fence to look at the vines themselves and be told about a year in the life of a vineyard…hard work, particularly in November, December! The slopes, which are exactly South-facing, were the lucky break for the sheep-farmer turned amateur wine-maker who started out with no knowledge. Being based on a slate bedrock, the roots which creep down as much as 3 metres give the wine its Cornish authenticity (terroire). There are only about half a dozen grape varieties grown particularly suited to this area, and they result in a bottle list of about a dozen wines (one being exclusively for Raymond Blanc). We all jumped out of our skins when the regular animal-scaring shots went off, and retreated into the manufacturing and warehouse facility.
Samuel took us through the whole wine-making process with a very light touch but in sufficient detail to satisfy even the die-hard wine afficianado. The fact I retain which most struck me was that three different wines can result from the processing of one batch. It was very very interesting to find out how wine making had progressed and become more mechanised ( in no way taking away from the utterly personal touch here ). One example was the ‘jiggling machines’ which you can see here and which replace an extremely laborious process of repeatedly hand turning the bottles of fizz (for which Camel Valley is perhaps best known) to settle the yeast into the cap end so that it can eventually, after as much as two years, be removed.
When in the new warehouse we saw exactly what two and half year’s production (particularly good years it mat be said) looks like.
I could have listened to Samuel for longer (he was very good), but the time came eventually for us to actually taste the stuff and what a pleasure it was to sit on the terrace and sample at first two, and then four, of the wines.
We were even joined by the lovely family dog who soon found out who the soft touch for crisp giving was (me!). The only recommendation I would make is for a supply of cheese and biscuits to be available (as per a vineyard tour in Lausanne with David and Jennifer). A sample of four wines may then have turned to six?!