Recommended by Rick Stein
Often referred to as one of English wine’s best kept secrets, Astley Vineyards has, since its inception in 1971, eschewed the conventional pathways. Rejecting self-gratularory promotion, its understated approach has slowly and quietly accumulated reverent appreciation and accolades over 40 years. The approach is to challenge the safe orthordoxy and, instead, devise new paradigms to create better wines.
Astley Vineyards was started in 1971 by viticultural pioneers Michael and Betty Bache. Like many other small English vineyards of that time, appearing to be attempting the unlikely, denying the consensus advice and with well wishers recommending professional psychiatric advice, it was run as a lifestyle vineyard. Their approach, however, was methodical and well researched and the resulting wines gained reputation.
The vineyards were taken over in 1993 by the current owners who, during the last 20 years have replaced some varieties, restructured trellising, reduced plant density, carried out varietal trials and broadened the range of wines produced. Although remaining small, the emphasis has been to engage in the quest for the most suitable grape varieties/vine management combination to suit Astley’s particular conditions in the pursuit of exemplary commercial English wine production.
Astley Vineyards now comprises 5 acres of vines established on Triassic Red Sandstone loams on a slightly NE facing slope ( same as Richebourg ) within half a mile of the River Severn in North Worcestershire. Prior to being a vineyard, the field was a traditional English cherry orchard which was eventually removed courtesy of the 1947 Agricultural Act’s grubbing up grant. The basic terroir therefore has had a history of minimal intervention and apart from tile drainage, remains so. It is inherently low yielding and the current viticultural practice is designed to maintain low yields to maximise wine quality.
Current varietals are Madeleine Angevine, Kerner (both original Bache plantings and therefore approaching 40 years old), Siegerrebe and Bacchus with a small experimental are of Sauvignon Blanc.
Vinification is, and always has been, at Three Choirs Vineyards where a strong relationship has been built up on the basis of close collaboration.
Madeleine Angevine 2015
Severn Vale 2014
'George Eckert' Vintage Brut 2013
Late Harvest 2015
Fred Daniels (1896-1959)
Born in Churchover near Rugby, Warwickshire, George Frederick William Daniels showed aptitude for art as a child. After school, he studied the subject informally and enjoyed the fertile artistic environment of early 20th century Parisian café culture. Here he met the Scottish colourist artist J.D.Fergusson and his wife the dancer Margaret Morris. He formed a lifetime collaborative friendship with both.
Fred’s career as an artist was unremarkable with a paintbrush but flourished when he applied his talent, instead, through the medium of photography. With a camera, his skill was appreciated as a freelance stills cameraman in the British film industry from 1928 through to the early 1950’s. A small exhibition of his film work from that period was shown at The National Portrait Gallery 2012-2013 and archives of his photographic work can be accessed via the NPG website and also that of The Fergusson Gallery in Perth, Scotland.
The artwork for Astley Vineyards’ wine labels comes from sketches he made in his later years when, for health reasons, he was unable to work in film.
This image is © of the estate of George Frederick Cannons