Thursday, 21 August 2014


We've made it into print in the Western Daily Press - 


West vineyard has something to celebrate

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: August 07, 2014
By JEFF WELLS
Guy Smith and Laura Evans of the vineyard in Aller celebrating the first batch of Somerset's only sparkling wine   PICTURE: SWNS
Guy Smith and Laura Evans of the vineyard in Aller celebrating the first batch of Somerset's only sparkling wine PICTURE: SWNS
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Somerset's first sparkling wine to be made from the same grape varieties as champagne was launched with a pop last week at a vineyard in Langport.
Guy Smith and Laura Evans, of wine-makers Smith & Evans, based at Higher Plot farm in Aller, celebrated the success of their unique venture at an official launch party at Great Bow Wharf.
The 2010 Vintage was made from grape varieties harvested four years ago and is the first sparkling wine ever made in Somerset using the same techniques as champagne.
The sparkling wine will now be on sale at outlets across the county including Williams Supermarket in Somerton and Evans The Butcher in Langport.
Mr Smith, who has been in the wine industry for most of his working life, said: "I always wanted to make wine but I thought I would have to go abroad to do it.
"But we realised that England had this potential for sparkling wine. You need grapes with a very long growing season to get the right flavour.
"The process we used is only really used in Champagne. There are a few sparkling wine makers in Kent, but no others in Somerset.
"I have worked as a wine trader for years but wine making is what we want to do in the long term."
He added: "The launch went really well with around 40 people there – these were the people who have supported and encouraged us throughout and it was good to share our product."
For years the couple dreamed of owning their own vineyard and searched across the county to find the right spot.
In 2007, they discovered the ideal south-facing plot, enriched with Burgundy-style soil, in Aller.
In 2008 they sowed 3,200 vines and transformed a former meadow at Higher Plot Farm into a vineyard.
The first harvest was finally ready for picking in 2010 and the couple were joined by 20 villagers armed with secateurs, wellies and hundreds of storage crates.
The first wine was ready a few years later but today's sparkling wine – made from the grapes harvested in 2010 – has been through a double fermentation process which has taken the best part of four years and gives the wine its fizz.
Mr Smith explained: "The flavours and aromas in our sparkling wines are made from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes.
"We don't produce homogeneous wines year in year out as we want to fully express the character of each season.
"In some years the wine may be a bright white and in others it may have a delightful pink tinge depending on what the grapes decided to do that particular year. Some years are fuller and rounder, others elegant and focussed."
The couple live on the farm with their black Labrador Fred.


Read more: http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/West-vineyard-celebrate/story-22127581-detail/story.html#mIExJ58KRBwZIiI1.01#ixzz3B1X4BVmW

Read more at http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/West-vineyard-celebrate/story-22127581-detail/story.html#pPbBITYzmRb3mI2J.99

Friday, 6 June 2014

Miguel - Grandpa to Smith and Evans.


Miguel Merino.

The man in this photo is Miguel Merino who in some ways is the inspiration for Smith and Evans wine. In the mid 1990s when I was working for the Spanish company Freixenet, I was asked to have dinner with the export guy for a Navarra winery called Ochoa. This sort of thing could be a real chore but Miguel was great and we had a lot of laughs. He was talking about buying a building a winery from scratch.

 In his own words -
Since the beginning of my exporting career I have long dreamt of having my own small "bodega", where I could make a few bottles of wine of the best quality possible. Briones, in the heart of the Rioja Alta,  gathered all the conditions  I was looking for: old steep vineyards of Tempranillo grapes, chalky soil and a climate showing a marked Atlantic influence. Declared a town of historic and artistic merit, Briones is where we decided to site our bodega.
 Twenty years ago, we restored an old 19th Century house on the outskirts of the town. On the adjoining land we built facilities for  vinification, barrel and bottle ageing and planted a small experimental vineyard.
 Now, as one of the smallest and youngest wineries in Spain —our first vintage was 1994— our wines are among the most prestigious in the country, and we are exporting them to over 30 markets. This encourages us to grow, not in quantity, but to constantly improve our style; how to get the best from each grape and each barrel. To continue to enjoy our wine-making
Miguel's Bodega.
It had honestly never ever occured to us that a regular bloke with neither a trust or  hedge fund could do this. One of the first adages you are taught  is that to make a small fortune in the wine trade you have to start with a large one. Looking back on the first seven years of the vineyard I think that actually maybe that's true. Many of those that are now planting vines in England seem to have biographies that say so and so bought the land in their second life after making piles and piles of cash in their first life.


We have always called him  Big Mig in hommage to the great Indurain  and over the years we have always seen each other at the various wine fairs around the world but as is often the way, we rarely had time to properly catch up until this week when I showed him a picture of our bottle number 1 ( I doubt he remembers but he gave us his bottle number 4). Miguels advice? Congratulations, you have done the hard bit. Now that your wine is going out into the wide world the real worrying begins.  Suffice to say, he and his sons make truly great wine. You can read more about them at  www.miguelmerino.com/  If we ever finally get an online shop going, we must try to get some of his wines.


Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Double Decker Vines.

Double Guyot.

When we planted at Higher Plot we chose a system called Double Guyot. Not because it had my name in the title but just because that's what French people did.  Not exactly scientific but as good as anything to start with as it wouldn't stress the vines too much. What we have found is that the plants are happy here, maybe too happy and we can't have that. They give a good yield of grapes but they are also pretty vigorous growing lots of greenery and there's no market for leaves unless you are a Dolmades producer. What we need to do is to transfer that energy into extra grapes.


Scott Henry

This year we're experimenting with double decker vines. This will mean more shoots but shorter ones. This has benefits in that less greenery means that there's better airflow which reduces the risk of disease and also potentially better quality as there's less shading and more light to ripen the grapes. Just to name drop, it was recommended to us by the illustrious Richard Smart no less. There are downsides.  The bottom row is trained downwards to just about bunny height so they will be munching on the tips. The top deck is trained upwards and so we'll be looking for people with very long arms to harvest.
Will it work? Maybe, watch this space.