In these days of gloom and pessimism about the economy, the climate, our health care, and the difficulties raised by our ridiculous overuse of computers…..and everything else…… it was really good the other day to visit a little vineyard near Llandyrnog, and to meet and hear about two local people who have shown energy, enthusiasm and energy in spades, clawed their way through every bureaucratic barrier, and built up a business which is the finest type of farm diversification you could imagine.

Friends of the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley, together with members of CPRW Clwyd Branch, who are members of both, paid a visit to Vale Vineyard – Gwinllan y Dyffryn, owned and run by Gwen and Rhys Davies.

We enjoyed a tour of the vineyard and learned a little from Gwen about the complexities of growing plants that are healthy, vigorous and which produce fruit that is easy to access. It is very hard work, sometimes involving about 20 on the site at once – mostly drawn from members of their extended families, and their two children (who seem as keen as their parents!).

We went on to enjoy a (generous) wine tasting, with no spitting in buckets, and most of us continued to a wine and cheese lunch as well. We were drinking white, rosè and red from their 2021 crop – their dèbut vintage. All three wines presented for our comments were smooth as silk and much lighter and fruitier than the usual stuff we buy in supermarkets. By the end of the afternoon we had forgotten all about the dire state of the nation, and the writer was pleased that he was not driving home.

The vineyard (gwinllan in Welsh – such a great word – “the parish of wine”) is about 5 acres, with 8000 vines arranged in 50 rows, with 160 plants in each, of 6 varieties. They produce 4 1/2 to 6 tonnes of fruit. 1800 metal stakes support 54 kilometres of wire. The place is full of statistics!

The varieties chosen are those grown in the more temperate regions of Europe – Germany and Switzerland – and the only name familiar to the writer was Pinot Noir Prècose, the last word indicating that it matures earlier than most vines and is therefore more suitable for our dodgy climate. (For the wine buffs amongst you, the other varieties are Solaris, Seyval Blanc, Cabaret Noir, Rondo and Diviso).

We were told also about the constant nuisance value of wildlife, especially rooks and other corvids, badgers and foxes, and of course the danger of mildew in wet periods.

They are grape farmers, not wine bottlers, so their harvest goes off to Bridgnorth, to a company that specialises in pressing and bottling the production of small growers in Wales and Northern England.

The wine produced from their grapes is not cheap, but not too expensive in these inflationary days. They work on the principle that “good quality grapes produce good quality wine.”  And their wine is really different and to be savoured, ideal for special occasions.

Let’s wish them all the very best in this new but highly professional venture. Cheers!