Albury tour and tastings
This wine is fit for a Queen, served in England's top restaurants AND it's produced right here in Surrey. Keen to learn more, Muddy booked in for a touring and tasting at Albury Organic Vineyard.
Albury Organic Vineyard is a family-owned and run vineyard in the pretty Surrey Hills at Albury, between Guildford and Dorking. It’s right by the Silent Pool and has some pretty good neighbours for company. The Silent Pool Gin Distillery is next door, alongside Mandira’s Kitchen (formerly Surrey Spice) and Norbury Blue artisan cheesemakers – so you can follow up a tour of the vineyard with a visit to these other artisan producers. Wine, cheese, curry and gin. What a fabulous combination.
The vineyard is set on 12 acres and was planted by former IT man Nick Wenman in 2009. Nick had a passion for wine and a long-time dream of owning his own vineyard. And a decade on that love for producing wine is still going strong. Of course, in that time there have been some pretty amazing highs – his sparkling wines have won international awards, they’re served in some of the UK’s top restaurants (including Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, Tom Kerridge’s The Hand and Flowers, and Chez Bruce in Wandsworth) and one of his wines was among just three that were served on the Royal barge Gloriana during The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012.
Guided tours and tastings take place on a Saturday from May to September and as well as a learning a little about the English wine scene, Nick also shares his passion for organic viticulture. Out of about 600 commercial vineyards in the UK, Albury is one of only a handful that has been certified as organic – which makes it pretty unique. Commercially it doesn’t make a lot of sense to go organic, but Nick strongly believes that being organic and following biodynamic principles produces a better quality fruit, and therefore a better quality wine. And if all those international awards are anything to go on, he’s obviously right.
There are 12 acres of vineyards, which is a little bigger than the average UK vineyard. The tour begins at the on the vineyard’s terrace then heads up a gentle slope to the top of the vines where there are stunning views out across to the North Downs. There are a couple of timber benches here too, so you can take a breather and enjoy the views.
The walk takes about 45 minutes and along the way, Nick talks about the challenges they face as an organic vineyard, including how they overcome problems like cold weather and vermin. The quick answer on these is a deer- and rabbit-proof fencing for the vermin, and a sophisticated on-site weather station that sends alerts if the temperatures drop. Once alerted Nick and his team must light about 900 oversized candles to encourage air circulation and bring the temperature up.
As Nick says, it’s really not just a case of sitting around with a glass of wine waiting for the views to grow! And the tour really makes you appreciate what goes into producing just a single bottle of sparking wine – it works out at almost one bottle of wine for every vine. At Albury Organic Vineyard, there are 22,000 vines and each year about 25,000 bottles are wine are produced. The vines are a mix of the traditional Champagne varietals of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, as well as some Seyval and Pinot Gris.
Albury produce three different sparkling wines -Longwells Seyval Blanc, the Classic Cuvee and the Prestige Cuvee – and I can honestly say they are all quite special, although it’s interesting to taste and compare each of them.
The Longwells Seyval Blanc is a 2017 vintage – it’s light and fresh and easy to drink – and in a pretty close contest, probably my favourite. The Classic Cuvee is the most successful of the vineyard’s wines. This is the wine that is served at England’s top restaurants. It’s has a little more depth of flavour than the Longwells.
The closest to Champagne, and the most complex in flavour of the three, is the Prestige Cuvee. Only 1,200 bottles are produced, so it’s also somewhat exclusive. Albury also produce the Silent Pool Rose, probably the vineyard’s most iconic wine, and the one Queen Elizabeth enjoyed at her Diamond Jubilee celebrations. They also produce a Surrey Hills Mead.
As well as the wine tastings, there’s the option to order a cheese board, featuring a selection of English cheese, or a charcuterie platter.
GOOD TO KNOW
While the walk through the vineyards is not particularly taxing, I’d suggest you leave the stilettos at home and wear sturdy footwear. It is up a bit of an incline in a field, something to consider in mind if you have difficulty with mobility. The guided tour is not particularly suited to kids – but families are welcome at the vineyard and there’s a self-guided tour kids’ toy trail that will keep them amused, and you.
The Vineyard Tour and Tasting is £20 per adult, and £5 of this is redeemable against any wine you buy on the day. Booking is a must.
Albury Organic Vineyard is open on weekends during the spring and summer from 11am-4pm. On Sunday 9 June, the vineyard is celebrating its 10th birthday with The Albury Wine Festival – entry is by pre-purchased ticket only.
Albury Organic Vineyard, Silent Pool, Shere Road, Albury, GU5 9BW. alburyvineyard.com