ENGLISH wines and home-grown grapes may still be in the minority, but despite the country’s unpredictable weather, Oxfordshire’s oldest vineyard is flourishing.
The 36-year history of Frilford Heath’s Bothy Vineyard began after Roger and Dorothea Fisher planted the first vines in 1978 and has since seen couple Sian and Richard Liwicki continue the tradition.
Now wine lovers across the county will have the chance to experience English wine at its best, including Bothy Vineyard’s vintages, during Oxford’s first English Wine Festival this weekend.
Mrs Liwicki, 51, who lives at the vineyard with her husband, 54, and daughters Sasha, 14 and Zoe, 11, said: “I’m really excited because Oxford is such an exciting city and one of the things we haven’t had is an offering of English and Welsh wine on this scale before.”
Home to six grape varieties, hand-picked grapes at Bothy are crafted to produce up to 7,000 bottles of rosé, sparkling, red and dry white wine each year.
Mrs Liwicki said: “Our vision was to produce a boutique winery and vineyard. We wanted to produce wine that we could drink ourselves. It was about quality, sustaining the environment and minimising our carbon footprint.”
The vineyard’s environmentally friendly approach includes reusing and recycling winery waste, using electricity from renewable sources and creating biodiversity areas to encourage wildlife to settle.
With the majority of wine sold to Oxfordshire-based customers and businesses, the couple strive to include the nearby community in their wine-making venture.
One of the English wines on offer at the vineyard
Mrs Liwicki said: “We involve the local community in most aspects of the vineyard management and some of the winemaking process.
“Wherever possible we source local foods for the meals prepared for volunteers.”
With more than 100 award-winning wines on show, the English Wine Festival comes as the city hosts the UK Vineyards Association’s Wine of the Year competition.
Today and tomorrow, judges will judge wines during blind-tasting sessions.
Festival-goers will have the chance to sample the competition contenders on Saturday from 11am at The Oxford Union, in Frewin Court.
Secretary of The Thames and Chilterns Vineyards Association, Denise Santilli said: “We are a growing industry, it’s growing bigger and bigger every single year. More and more vineyards are being planted.
“The climate is such that it’s only going to get better, so the English wine industry is going to blossom.”
Tickets can be bought at the door and are priced at £7
Sian Liwicki’s advice for wine-tasters:
Make sure the wine is the right temperature. Quite often white wines are too cold and should be about 10 to 11C. Red wines should be at room temperature.
Don’t put too much in your glass because you need to allow the air to get to it because that releases all the flavour.
Look at the colour and sniff the wine.
Drink from a glass where you can swirl the wine around your mouth so that it covers all of your tongue.
Take your time and think about the wine – practice makes perfect.
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