Wednesday 29 September 2010

Parva Farm Vineyard

The Wye Valley seems to nestle in it's own little time warp. Here amongst wooded hills and gently bending flows, streams of day trippers lick on fluffed up fatty cones and pay through the nose for pub grub fresh from the freezer. You wouldn't be surprised if Terry Thomas ran you off the road shouting, "Hard cheese old man". It's a little piece of Britain that's stuck forever in the 1950s.

It was the 1950s that witnessed the first tentative steps towards establishing vineyards in this country. A movement led mainly by retired colonels with a little too much shrapnel left in the brain. Who else would try? They persevered and gradually, as the years passed by, innovations in the vineyard and the winery, together with a spot of global warming, meant some of these wines actually became drinkable.

Around one bend, waved on by a pitchfork yielding yokel, and up a steepish hill, you'll find Parva Farm Vineyard. First planted in 1979 and under the present regime since the mid 1990s.

There's an unmistakable and not entirely unexpected whiff of 'The Good Life' about the set-up, but some of the grapes growing here are a real surprise.

For a small fee you get a signed walk around the vineyard followed by a tasting. It's well worth it.

The views across the Wye towards Tintern Abbey are profoundly genteel and they even throw in a bit of rural leg pulling. My grandfather was a farmer, fond of both literal and metaphorical leg pulling, I could hear his voice whilst reading this.

Aye, right, Romans is it. We came back down into the midst of a minor crisis. The owner's daughter had lost her new puppy. I was impatient to taste the wines so after a brief glance around said, "Don't worry, I'm sure he'll turn up", as '101 Horrible Farm Deaths' flashed through my mind.

I tried to block out images of sad puppy eyes sinking slowly beneath a pit of silage and concentrate on the wines. Annoyingly, and this is a problem with a lot of English and Welsh wine tastings, you have to make do with little disposable plastic thimbles. That said, even a decent glass probably wouldn't have helped the first few offerings. They were, at best, "interesting". Also, they don't do tastings of the sparkling wine. However, spirits lifted immeasurably when the wastrel turned up unharmed.

Then we tasted this...

This is a delicious wine. Off dry and a blend of several varieties. It's aromatic, with a refreshing acidity and that beautiful purity the best UK wines have. I bought a half dozen on the spot, it's the most enjoyable Welsh wine I've drunk, by quite some way. After a few glasses in the garden with my sceptical brother he grudgingly conceded it was very good. My Dad opened a bottle of expensive Italian white afterwards and it just tasted 'dirty'. Hard cheese old man! We nicknamed Parva's Afon Gwy "the spoiler", Terry Thomas would have loved it.

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