Our Head Sommelier, Guillaume Kaczmar, has visited Ancre Hill Estate vineyard located in Monmouth, Wales.
Ancre Hill Estates is a family run business comprising husband and wife team, Richard and Joy and son David. Richard explains that Dave is the real driving force behind the business. Armed with a BSc in Viticulture & Oenology gained at Plumpton College (part of Brighton University) in 2009, Dave then spent a couple of years working for Biodynamic wine producers in France (Champagne, Burgundy & Roussillon) and for James Millton in New Zealand. With this experience in his locker Dave joined the family wine business in 2011 and the rest is history as they say!
2015 has seen the business expand with the building of a new Winery (Wales’s first) and the acquisition of a second farm in Monmouth.
The current Vineyard site at Ancre Hill Vineyard is 4 hectares in size. The main grape varieties are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Albariño, the first planting being made in 2006. The Estate is certified Biodynamic and Organic and has won numerous International Awards, including the Bollicine del Mondo in 2012 when its Sparkling Wine was voted best in the world at Verona in Italy. Current plans are to bottle and sell Organic Spring Water from this site from 2016.
The new Winery, completed in March 2015, has been built with sustainability as the main theme. It is constructed from straw bales to maximise thermal and humidity controls and is believed to be one of the largest non-prefabricated straw bale constructions ever undertaken in the world. It is also equipped with a sedum grass roof and Ecological Water Treatment Reed Bed System.
In June 2014 a second 48-hectare farm was acquired on the outskirts of Monmouth. A further 10 hectares of Vineyard will be planted in 2016 and 2017. Additional farming activities planned are organic cider apple production and organic beef production.
Wine production will expand to circa 50,000 bottles per annum by the end of the decade.
Ancre Hill Estates has a unique approach to biodynamic viticulture and wine making. Ancre Hill believe that great wine is made in the vineyard and that work done in the winery may only realise the potential at harvest, not increase it.
Inspected by DEMETER every year to insure all cultural practices in the vineyard go above and beyond organic standards in line with the full Biodynamic accreditation achieved in 2013.
Great care and attention is paid in applying the biodynamic preparations to the vineyard. These are stirred by hand, in rain water and sprayed strictly under the correct conditions. Only with this level of detail and personal involvement can biodynamic practices allow our vines to find the balance of life forces necessary for healthy growth and quality of production.
Ancre Hill employ a regular spray programme based on organic and biodynamic principles. The use of sulphur, necessary in certain years, is kept to a minimum with the addition of wild plant tisanes made on the Estate. Insecticides and herbicides are not used at all, with weeds ploughed out from under the vines. There is a strong focus on canopy management, maximising air flow through the canopy and sun and light exposure to suit the season. This is further assisted by our Geneva Double Curtain trellising system designed for cooler climates.
A programme of cultivation provides the soil with aeration necessary for the development of a healthy micro-organism population, negating the need for petro-chemical fertilisers. Co-plantation and the promotion of wild flora and fauna help maintain the balance of our eco-system and soils.
The style of Ancre Hill’s wines is constantly evolving with small batch fermentations occurring almost entirely in oak barrels and concrete cuves. Fermentations are carried out by wild yeasts and bacteria with the avoidance of filtration and fining for the finished wines. Our wines, as with our grapes, are fully DEMETER certified, adhering to the strictest production criteria. We believe working in this way will not only create better wines qualitatively, but wines of greater integrity and sustainability. The Winery at Ancre Hill will allow the full benefits of our experiences growing and making ‘natural’ wines in Burgundy, Roussillon, Champagne and New Zealand to be displayed.
Soon, the wines from Acnre Hill Estate will be available on our wine list.