Wine Wizardry in West Wales - Gwinllan Hebron

Remember the pre-Covid era? When from time to time you would take a few days off from the daily grind, travel a few hundred miles chasing the sun, hopefully landing somewhere with great views, fine food and excellent wine? No, me either.

The trouble with lockdown, for us singletons, was that no matter how much you love your home it's effectively solitary confinement - and with winter 2020/21 seemingly never-ending, constituted cruel and unusual punishment. So it was with great joy that I crossed the Severn Bridge at the beginning of May 2021, heading west for some much needed R&R and to discover if there is life beyond the end of the M4 Motorway.

I had undertaken a fair bit of research before my trip; mostly centred on whether the pubs had re-opened or were any restaurants near my holiday home offering delivery (there weren't) so, on arrival I opened up the WineGB website, thinking "I'm pretty sure there must be a vineyard around here somewhere..."

A few clicks on the Satnav later and I headed up into the hills, arriving at Hebron as the sun put in a welcome appearance. Although I had turned up on spec, I was treated to a private tour by Paul Rolt, the self-taught proprietor who had previously run an award-winning organic vineyard in Andalucia, Spain, before returning to Wales in 2010. 

Budburst on 5th May 2021

Paul's philosophy is one of minimal intervention, hand training vines of Rondo and Solaris at a height of about 1.5m. Paul truly believes in allowing the unique terroir to have its voice and the result is top quality wine. Paul's passion for his wine was apparent as we strolled through the vineyard and I received a mini-masterclass in grape growing, vine training, climate and soils. I was amazed to discover that nearly two hours had passed by the time I returned to my car.

Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

The first edition of Rondo was sold out but I managed to lay hands on the superlative  "Silver Lining" - a Traditional Method sparkling wine from the 2018 vintage of Solaris which was released late in 2020 and received PGI status as a Quality Sparkling Welsh Wine. It has been very favourably reviewed by (amongst others) Davy Zyw, Wine Buyer for Berry Bros. & Rudd and David Darlow, ex-Winemaker at Chandon and currently producing quality Organic Wines at Mount Avoca, Australia's most highly awarded Organic Winery in the Pyrenees, Victoria. 

I wasn't able to taste the wine at the vineyard but, as planned, I put off my much-anticipated tasting until Welsh Wine Week 4th-13th June 2021. See below for tasting notes.

Silver Lining is still available online from the vineyard website. With a limited edition of under 800 bottles I'm sure it won't be around for long...

Hebron “Silver Lining” Tasting Notes: 10 June 2021

Chilled to 11C in the wine fridge and opened at 6.55pm in preparation for the return of #ukwinehour on Twitter, but I missed the 7pm start because this wine was so amazing I had to grab my record book and write "proper" WSET L3 tasting notes. First sniff - a little light on the nose (although that might be because hay fever affected my nasal receptors) but the palate! First sip: OMG. Just Wow. Doesn’t taste like anything that I have ever tasted before and I consider myself pretty well versed in my knowledge of sparkling wines and preferred English varietals. Although bottle aged it’s low on the honey, nuts and toast expected from lees autolysis and the buttery / creamy MLF you might expect from a Traditional Method sparkler, even from cooler climes - but oh boy, the fruit more than makes up for it! Big slurp: Intense flavour of pear and ripe apples with a hint of tropical in the background - Hebron must have had near perfect growing conditions in 2018 to get that level of ripeness and, even more amazingly, it's zero dosage. Bear in mind I deliberately avoided reading anyone else’s tasting notes to avoid being influenced and I didn’t even read the label except the ABV - it’s sneaky, so well balanced you could be forgiven for not realising that it is 13%. It's so more-ish I’ve just poured my third glass and it held its own against my beef stroganoff and wild rice supper. It would be a happy match for all the traditional food options, smoked salmon, shellfish etc. but it has great versatility and will likely pair with more robust culinary options. I will be hiding my second bottle until I can order (lots!) more. It’s 💯stunning. And as it’s a limited edition of less than 800 bottles you will have to beat me to it…

Hebron “Silver Lining”: WSET Level 3 SATW notes

Gwinllan Hebron 1st Release Limited Edition Silver Lining Sparkling Solaris 2018, Welsh IGP

Tasted 10 June 2021, Dartington Crystal "just the one" Champagne/Sparkling Wine Flute 

Appearance: pale, lemon, 

Nose: clean; medium intensity of pear and green apple; elderflower, hint of lees autolysis, developing.

Palate: Dry; medium acidity and alcohol; light body; the mousse needs a different descriptor - it’s neither delicate, nor aggressive but “creamy” isn’t quite the right word, either. The tiny bubbles are fine but vigorous in my tall Dartington crystal “just the one” Champagne flute. Really intense primary flavours of ripe pear, ripe apple, tropical melon (and maybe a hint of lychee?); secondary: faint buttery biscuit: tertiary: evidence of fruit development in a hint of dried apricot. A bit early for evidence of bottle ageing. 

Quality: Excellent balance of fruit and acid; good length; great intensity; some complexity which is likely to improve. Conclusion: Very Good

Potential: Ready to drink now and has great potential for ageing.

What Wales needs - a Winery open to all Welsh Wine producers

It seems such a shame that the fruit of so much hard work has to be shipped across the border into England for processing. Hopefully grape growing in Wales will soon reach that critical mass that will enable growers to get together to share wine production facilities and will be able to add "Bottled in Wales" to their label.

The Knowledge

Hebron Vineyard, Lletty A, Hebron, Whitland, Carmarthenshire, SA34 0XS

Wales, UK.

Tel:   01994 419415

Mob: 07923 432391 

Welsh organic Vineyard | Hebron Vineyard and Accommodation | Wales

Instagramjemma Vickers (@hebronvineyard) • Instagram photos and videos

Vineyards of Wales Home | Vineyards of Wales

Wine GB

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Welsh Wine Week 4th-13th June 2021 / Home - Welsh Wine Week | Wythnos Gwin Cymru

Brad Horne

Spoilt for choice! Looks like a future Vineyard Tour in the making...