Andy Mounsey will host a live video feed on Friday, 4 June at 6.00-6.30pm, giving viewers an introduction to the vineyard and showing how the vines are responding to the increasing temperatures. Then, Ivan Wilson from the fabulous Fire & Ice in Narberth joins to announce a new product! Scroll to “The Knowledge” for more details

Wine Wizardry in West Wales - Velfrey Vineyard

It was a cold, wet, Saturday morning at the end of my West Wales holiday, when I took a circuitous route - an overnight storm had brought down trees and the occasional wall -  to Velfrey Vineyard, expecting its Cellar Door to have opened for tastings from 10am. Arriving at 11 to find the gates closed, I called the number on the WineGB website and, fortunately, the winemaker was "in". And, as luck would have it, due to the diabolical weather there were no other visitors and I was the beneficiary of Andy's undivided attention and generous hospitality. 

In the words of local poet, Dylan Thomas: “To begin at the Beginning...”

Andy Mounsey and his family moved to West Wales from Derbyshire and started the vineyard almost by accident. They went to the restaurant at Jabajak vineyard for a meal, when Jabajak's 2014 vintage had just been bottled. Halfway down the second bottle Andy's son Ryan suddenly asked, "Dad, why don’t WE have a vineyard?" So Andy read English Wine guru Stephen Skelton MW's book Wine Growing in Great Britain, a complete guide to growing grapes for wine production in cool climates, then invited him for a visit, sought his advice - and the rest, as they say, is history. 

As Goldilocks might say: "This site? it's Just Right"

Velfrey Vineyard is situated at 53North; at 65m AOD it's not too high above sea level, at 10 miles (16km) from the Pembrokeshire coast it's not too close to the sea, it's south facing so the vines are never in shadow, it slopes naturally north to south - and it's sheltered from the prevailing winds. It only needed drainage to make it perfect for growing vines. The Velfrey team spent 12 months preparing the ground, installing drainage and spearing the soil with seaweed extract, a bio-stimulant which lowers the freezing point so has a useful protective effect against frost damage.

Fun fact: Keith Richards (no, the other one) did the initial ploughing

Planting, protection and picking

The first planting, of Seyval Blanc vines, took place in May 2017. It took all day to plant by hand. Andy brought in a machine for the second planting and 3500 vines were placed in just a couple of hours.  Seyval is perfect for the conditions as it needs little attention and is not prone to powedery mildew.  Seyval starts slow (growing) and takes several years to get going.

With 1.2m between vines and low, double guyot vine training to achieve the 700mm fruiting vine height recommended by Stephen Skelton, the vines get radiated heat from the soil but the risk is that they are frost-prone. Low-trained vines are also hard on pickers' backs at harvest time! Not that it has put anyone off; after an appeal on the local Facebook group Andy was inundated with volunteers for his first harvest.

The 2019 crop was badly affected by frost damage. The yield was low but the quality was high. This year, Velfrey's vines were protected using horticultural fleece and were pruned late, consequently they suffered next to no damage from the late frost and low temperatures. As are all growers across the the UK, Andy is just hanging on until 13 May, the magic date, after which hopefully the likelihood of damage from frost will be minimal.

Winemaking - and crafting the perfect blend

Velfrey's wines are blended and bottled by the celebrated family team at Halfpenny Green, South Staffordshire; their vineyard and winemaking consultant, Ben, made the 7-hour round trip down to Velfrey within a week of Andy's initial enquiry. It was Ben who recommended that Andy should plant Pinot Noir; Andy now has 3170 Seyval to 400 Pinot Noir vines, with just enough to Pinot Noir to produce the Rosé.

Andy had flirted with Rondo and Regent red grapes, before settling on a combination of Seyval, Solaris and Pinot Noir, buying in Chardonnay for his first, 2018 vintage - which ended up as 48% Chardonnay, with 17% Seyval, 35% Pinot Noir and was on the lees for 18 months. It tastes very similar to a Classic Cuvee" but with something unique on the palate - on taste alone I was unable to determine which grape varietal had replaced the more traditional Pinot Meunier (my guess was Solaris). Now Andy is working on the balance between autolytic and fruit, with just enough lees ageing to soften the acidity; and to reduce dosage to 8mg/l.

Contrary to my earlier research I discovered from Andy that there is now a winery in Wales; it's in Monmouthshire, and is run by Dave Morris, the son of Richard Morris of Ancre Hill Vineyard. Unfortunately minimum batch size prevents some of the smaller local vineyards from using Dave's facilities and Velfrey are by no means the only Welsh growers taking advantage of the expertise of the team at Halfpenny Green. Given the quality of the resulting wine, long may the relationships continue.    

The 2019 vintage is due for release late in 2021, the ultimate Christmas gift. And buyers are already lining up to reserve the 2020 vintage, a testament to the reputation for quality that Andy and the family team at Velfrey has achieved from their very first vintage. 

Shopping and Shipping

Velfrey retails at £30 per bottle: an excellent price point for a premium sparkling wine. Shipping costs are significant; I hadn't realised courier companies charge an additional premium for entering the London congestion charging zone and few will accept wine due to its inherent fragility - so packaging costs are high. Anyone who has wine delivered will understand the occasional frustration of loss or damage - so order ASAP for Welsh Wine Week to avoid disappointment. 

The Knowledge - Velfrey Vineyard, West Wales

Click to watch the Velfrey Live event on 4th June 2021 at 6pm - you don't need a Facebook account.

Velfrey Vineyard | Pembrokeshire's Premier Vineyard

Plas y Coed, Velfrey Road, Lampeter Velfrey, Pembrokeshire SA34 0RA Wales, UK.

Email: info@velfrey,com

Tel:   07950 886644

Guided Tours, including a presentation in the visitor centre and a walk through the vineyard, are now running every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until September with a complimentary tasting of Velfrey's first release included in the £15 per adult. Under 18's are free but must be accompanied by an adult. 

Please phone or e-mail if you would like to buy in person and collect. You may also order Online: the 2018 is available for delivery or collection and the 2019 and 2020 vintages are on pre-order. 

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