Saturday, 15 July 2017

Wine Tasting with Dunleavy Vineyards

How's this for an inspirational story: my friend Ingrid has her own vineyard, planted when she was heavily pregnant with her first child in 2008 and which she manages pretty much single-handedly, creating a Pinot Noir rose that has won a whole bunch of awards, including Silver at the UK Wine Awards 2017. She even managed to fit in having another child along the way. I mean, that's pretty impressive, no?

I've followed Ingrid's story for some time (she has children at the same school as mine and definitely wins the award for 'Mum with the Coolest Job') but the other evening I finally got to sample her wine and hear a bit more about her background, along with some other local bloggers and food writers. 

Let's start with the wine. I love rose and I'm totally down with the whole idea of eating and drinking locally sourced produce wherever possible, so I was really excited about trying a wine produced just a short distance from my own doorstep. 

Ingrid's vineyard is located in the heart of the Chew Valley in Somerset, in the village of Wrington, though her business is based in Bishopston - it doesn't get more local than that. For those that know their viticulture (I'll admit I'm a bit hazy; I just know I like dry wines and if I'm looking for a rose I always for a Cotes du Provence - that's as technical as it gets for me) the wine is made from Pinot Noir and Seyval Blanc grapes which are nurtured in Somerset's loamy soils, using low tech methods that work in harmony with nature. As well as the rose, Ingrid will be releasing her first sparkling wine towards the end of 2018. Ingrid keeps things local by working closely with a wine maker in Glastonbury to ensure her wine is made exactly as she wants it.

Supping on a glass in the garden the other evening, it fulfilled everything I want from a summer drink - crisp, dry and the perfect accompaniment to a table full of tapas. I loved it, and judging from the speed at which we sunk a few bottles, I think my guests did too. 

I can't profess to be a wine buff and I'm certainly not a wine snob - when I think back to wines I've enjoyed most, I think of my relatives in Italy and their little home production lines, making simple, uncomplicated wines to be served from a rustic carafe over lunch in the garden. So I won't pretend I can explain the top notes and complex flavours of this wine - but believe me when I tell you it's bloody lovely and I can't wait to get my hands on another bottle soon.

Dunleavy Wine surprised me in its ability to transport me to warmer climes for the evening - I'm still amazed that a gorgeous rose that more than stands up to expensive French wines can be produced just up the road from Bristol Airport. 

As we sipped and nibbled, Ingrid explained a bit more about her background. A degree in Biology was followed by a stint at the BBC, but it wasn't really Ingrid's true calling. Perhaps when you've got a science degree that focuses very much on living things, shuffling bits of paper around a desk isn't going to fulfil your life's ambitions. It was a subsequent job managing another local vineyard that sparked the idea of a career in viticulture, and after saving, researching and looking at land, Ingrid finally took the plunge in 2008.

As someone with a job that is pretty much entirely desk bound, I must say I did find myself mentally assessing the possibility of giving it all up and buying my own plot of land (some corner in Tuscany would do nicely) to follow in Ingrid's footsteps. However, it's not all skipping about picking grapes in the sunshine, of course - there's a LOT of hard work and dedication that goes into managing a vineyard, even a relatively small one like Ingrid's.

Ingrid explained that having the responsibility of a vineyard is a bit like having a child - you need to nurture and grow it with love and care, and there are all sorts of obstacles to overcome along the way, not least the issue of inclement weather. And then, of course, when you've done all that work, you have to let your wine go out into the big, wide world. I can imagine it's quite an emotional - as well as physically draining - experience. Ingrid is currently making around 3000 bottles a year and hopes to reach 5000 in the near future. 

As we talked food, wine, sustainability, as well as the ever-challenging question of how to juggle a career with raising children, I was reminded just how many brilliant women there are out there, quietly doing stuff like running vineyards, writing cookbooks, managing PR companies and launching businesses - Ingrid and my other wine tasting guests are a great example of how women are shaping our food and drink scene in Bristol and it was a real inspiration to hear about their varied and exciting projects.
So, if you like the idea of sampling a truly local wine that has won awards both at home and abroad, get yourself a bottle of Dunleavy - it's available to buy at various independent wine shops across Bristol as well as online here (the most cost-effective way to purchase it; Dunleavy try and offer free delivery in Bristol where possible.) You can also buy Dunleavy at wholesale cost from the Somerset Flower Farm.

Plus you can find out more about Dunleavy on their Facebook and Instagram pages.

Some photos courtesy of Dunleavy Vineyards.


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