Over 5.5 million bottles of English and Welsh wines were sold in 2019 and this month sees the launch of the Yorkshire Wine Trail with the county’s six best established vineyards coming together to form a new tourist venture designed to capitalise on the growth.
Chris Spakouskas of Yorkshire Heart Vineyard in Nun Monkton, which he runs with his wife Gillian, said he is really excited about the wine trail that was the brainchild of fellow vineyard owner Ian Sargent of Laural Vines.
“Ian has been the driving force behind the wine trail that has been mooted for several years. We take tourism very seriously and 75 per cent of our current trade is tourist based. We host three tours of our vineyard twice a week, have our own café and seating areas outside and inside.
“We are not the only ones. Others in the Yorkshire Wine Trail have cafés, tearooms or coffee shops too.
“For us that means anyone can come. You don’t have to come for a vineyard experience or even anything particularly to do with the vineyard apart from perhaps having a glass of wine. We are now a destination venue.
“People can have a fish platter or a ploughman’s or a soup, try our wines if they wish, have a coffee and just enjoy the place. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have said it’s rather nice here.
“The Yorkshire Wine Trail gives us and the other five vineyards another important opportunity to show the public why our wines are now rated so highly on the world stage.
“We are hoping to work with coach firms to offer breaks including accommodation, which will mean visitors can enjoy the wines without having to worry about getting home.”
Two East Yorkshire vineyards, Laurel Vines in Aike and Little Wold Vineyard in South Cave; Carlton Towers Vineyard near Goole, Leventhorpe Vineyard in Woodlesford; and Ryedale Vineyards in Westow make up the sextet along with Yorkshire Heart.
Chris said that each has their own individual take on producing the best wines and that although the trail has been announced with the six better-known vineyards, it is not intended to exclude others in the county.
“There are around 16 vineyards in Yorkshire currently and we will be encouraging more to get involved with the Yorkshire Wine Trail. It is certainly not meant to be an exclusive club. We just want people to be aware of the vineyards of Yorkshire.
“The six that are kicking it off all do something slightly differently with our vines and how we make our wines. I’m sure that will be of interest to those who probably anticipate we will all follow exactly the same path.
“There is a lot of good wine out there. The scale of production really isn’t that important.
“It is what you learn about how to look after a vine that is key. Whether you have 35 vines in your garden or 35,000 in your vineyard the process is still very much the same even if we all have own individual growing methods on different types of land and under different conditions.
“The vine still needs careful attention, feeding and tending. We are fortunate that in many ways we have what I believe to be the perfect climate here in Nun Monkton.”
Chris said the type of grape grown in Yorkshire can sometimes surprise the aficionados.
“Amongst our range we grow the Cabernet Franc grape variety, which is known as a hot grape. Our nurseryman said we would never get them to ripen. We first planted them in 2009 and it was nine years later before the vines grew any grapes.
“They took a long time to acclimatise, but all plants are living things that want to keep living and will find a way to survive.
“It’s like they say to themselves ‘look we’re here, we might as well do what we do’. We don’t get masses when they do ripen but whatever comes from them is worth the wait.
“That’s the kind of thing visitors will find interesting, the varieties we grow, from the white wine varieties of Solaris, Ortega and Seyval Blanc to Rondo, Pinot Noir and Regent that produce much of the red wines.”
Sparkling wines have had their place in the surge of the English and Welsh wine boom. The Wine & Spirit Trade Association said, a few years ago, that over 70 per cent of all wine produced in England and Wales was sparkling wine.
Chris said that the Prosecco effect had helped Yorkshire Heart and fellow sparkling wine producers across the UK.
“Prosecco has introduced many to sparkling wine, which is a fun drink that people love. It accounts for around one third of our sales with sparkling whites, reds and rose. In a good year we will make 12,500 bottles of sparkling wine.”
Chris said that with over 700 vineyards now operative in England and Wales and the quality of grapes now being grown the sales of wine have taken a marked upward trend.
“What is being produced on our island and here in Yorkshire is now stacking up strongly against anyone in the world.
“We recently picked up a bronze in the International Wine Challenge for our Regent Rose and others in the Yorkshire Wine Trail have won awards in recent times.”
Wine production soared in 2018 across the whole country on the back of a brilliant summer and grape harvest.
15.6 million bottles of wine were produced, nearly 10 million more than the previous year. Chris said this had given producers stock for the first time.
“It was a fabulous summer for everyone and that helped carry us through last year when we experienced a severe late spring frost.
“We should have made 35,000 bottles of wine last year and only made 7,500. They are the vagaries of winemaking."
Full details of The Yorkshire Wine Trail can be found at https://yorkshirewinetrail.co.uk