Wine tasting in Wythall

Located just 2 miles from Ross-on-Wye town centre, lies one of our county’s best kept secrets for those in search of a unique wine experience deep in the Herefordshire countryside. Wythall Estate nestles against the slopes of Bulls Hill and we were lucky to book our wine tour on what turned out to be a gloriously sunny day in August. As we approached the beautiful Grade I listed half-timber framed Tudor house, we could tell immediately that this was a very special place. We were warmly met by Anthea, husband Frank and brother Jamie who run the estate and our tour began outside on the gravel driveway where Frank gave us an excellent introduction to vine management, demonstrating the tools and equipment he personally uses to maintain the health of the sprawling vines literally just a stone’s throw away from us.

Leading us through the vineyards, Frank showed us Wythall Estate’s unique selection of vines which were starting to show encouraging signs of growth, ready for the autumn harvest where the wine production starts in earnest. Grapes include pinot noir, rondo, orion and the lesser-known siegerrebe which is used to produce their own champagne-style sparkling white (‘style‘, because despite the fact that it is produced using exactly the same process as champagne, it cannot be called as such for obvious reasons).

The estate’s own microclimate ensures that its award-winning wines can rival some of the most high profile wine producers on an international stage. This is mainly due to the protective terrain which prevents damage during the cold months and ensures maximum warmth from the sun during summer months – the perfect balance for growing exceptional wine. As we followed Frank through the fields, we were struck by the stunning surroundings – the vineyards are hugged by swathes of wild flowers and flanked by the peaceful sound of a small stream which runs between the house and the vineyards on the other side. The tour circled back to the manor house, passing the two dog-friendly self catering cottages which are attached to the main house and sit adjacent to the beautifully maintained lake on the forecourt.

Jamie greeted us and led us to our wine tasting in the old dining room which could transport you back a few centuries, complete with open fireplace, vintage furniture, part stone, part timber-framed walls and floors with huge flagstones. We tested the full range of wines produced on the estate including the white Siegerrebe, two reds (a Pinot Noir and Estate Red), their stunning Sparkling Rosé made from a blend of Orion and Rondo grapes (the aroma akin to a bowl of freshly picked strawberries). We finished with their Special Reserve signature sparkling white, a pale golden colour with a very unique baked apple flavour made exclusively from their Orion grapes – perfect for any special occasion. All of Wythall Estate wines have won awards at major European and International competitions and are stocked in a small handful of delicatessens and local gastro pubs, including Truffles Delicatessen in Ross-on-Wye. 

Tours are available a couple of times a month until the end of the year (view available dates at https://wythallestate.co.uk/vineyard.html) – the perfect excuse to spoil your loved one on their birthday or maybe even book a group tour with friends this Christmas and learn about the team’s plans for the next generation of wine production. Contact Anthea to book, by emailing info@wythallestate.co.uk or call 01989 566868.

How green is our county

We are so lucky to live in one of the most beautiful counties in the UK.

Herefordshire – resting along the border of Wales, with its rolling hills, stunning landscapes, incredible wildlife and award-winning food producers – has tourists returning year after year to enjoy everything the county has to offer. However, as highlighted through this week’s Earth Day campaign, with the environment almost at breaking point, this can only happen if we commit together to change our habits to secure this future. David Attenborough once quoted: “The future of humanity and indeed, all life on earth, now depends on us.

The Telegraph reported earlier that the Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which outlines the most eco-friendly countries across the globe, ranks the UK 4th behind Denmark, Luxembourg and Switzerland – so we’re not doing too badly on the global stage. This is also good news for tourism, as a country’s eco-credentials is a growing concern for many holidaymakers, who are keen to align their travel plans with their life values.

Alongside the global perspective, locally, in Ross-on-Wye, there are armies of volunteers doing their bit to keep our beautiful countryside as clean and sustainable as possible. From recycling paper and plastics, to planting trees; from volunteers dedicated to looking after our marine and wildlife, to on-the-ground litter picking crews.

Ross Community Litter Clean Up Crew (RCLCUC), set up in 2018 by Jilly Scamell, Anne Taylor and Chris Bartrum, now has around 50 volunteers who regularly clean the streets and surrounding countryside. In the last couple of years, they have collected over 2,210 bags of litter which are left at official collection points in and around the town. Jilly commented: “We love the fact that the group is for our community and are constantly amazed by the amount of volunteers that have got involved especially since March last year. After all there is ‘No Planet B’.  As we all are able to enjoy our amazing countryside especially during such difficult times we all need to ensure that we look after it. Due to regulations the litter crew are not permitted to take waste home and recycle which is sad as there is lots of waste that could easily be recycled if everyone took their rubbish home with them.  That’s the dream. You’re never too old or too young to get involved and if you want to find out more then join the Facebook page or message me for further details on 07779 254091”.

Elsewhere in Ross-on-Wye and Herefordshire, there are huge numbers of eco-friendly organisations campaigning hard for a greener world: groups such as Enviroability, the Zero Waste Food Hub, the Marine Conservation Society, Herefordshire Green Network and Herefordshire Wildlife Trust to name but a few. A new initiative aimed at parish councils and individuals, is The Great Collaboration, an interactive online platform which will track and capture information about the carbon reduction actions that individuals, business, community groups and schools in the local community are taking and planning.

As we slowly recover from the pandemic, it is so encouraging to see our local volunteers and communities getting behind these initiatives which will help our countryside to survive, become more resilient and provide a sustainable environment for generations to come – and allow tourists to continue to enjoy what we are so fortunate enough to have right on our doorstep.