If you think of rolling vineyards, nestled into the plush countryside, you might instantly call to mind a scene from Bordeaux or some kind of tuscan idyll, but you might be interested to know that fine wines are being produced much closer to home. Just off the A59 between York and harrogate, where the Ouse and Nidd meet, lies Nun Monkton, home of the Yorkshire Heart vineyard.
The idea of creating wines in Yorkshire dates back to 2000, when Chris and Gillian Spakouskas planted a handful of vines in their back yard. Five years later they had bottled their first batch of vino for personal use and toyed with the idea of turning it into a business. There followed a year of planning, consultancy and testing and 2006 saw 1,500 vines put in place, with a further 1,000 to 2,000 being added to that tally every year since. The business now takes up 10 acres of glorious North Yorkshire countryside and boasts 17,000 vines, cultivating 17 different varieties of grape.
Utilising grapes bred especially to thrive in northern europe, the vineyard produces quality reds, rosés and whites as well as boasting the only sparkling wines that are developed entirely within Yorkshire from grape to glass, created using the same second fermentation method that produces the world’s most famous champagnes.
Chris and Gillian’s son tim has run a micro-brewery on the site since 2011, creating an array of quality craft ales and the recent planting of an orchard means that ciders and flavoured wines will be on offer as soon as next year. to add to Yorkshire Heart’s family credentials, tim’s wife Georgina is part of the executive team too, famed for having the magic touch with the temperamental bottling and labelling machine.
As you would expect, Yorkshire Heart is more than happy to throw open its doors to tour groups, who find the team’s passion for their work and knowledge of their subject is striking.
Tours begin again in May, and in the meantime, Yorkshire Heart is running a beer and music festival starting on Friday April 29 th, followed by the main event on Saturday April 30th with a cavalcade of fine Yorkshire products, bouncy castle, inflatable slide, chair-oplane ride and other outdoor games and lots of live music including Tje Sidewinders, the Blueflies and the Accousmiths.
Wine making in this country is on the up at the moment. Karen Metcalfe, who is in charge of Business Development at Yorkshire Heart, says: “People are beginning to understand about English wine production and trust in it a lot more now, people have much more focus on where things are produced and provenance is becoming more and more important to the customer.”
There are 470 vineyards and 135 wineries in England according to the latest figures, sending 4.45 million bottles out onto the market every year. Production is set to increase tenfold by 2020 as winemakers across the country begin to work more closely together, with Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss calling the country’s first wine roundtable this year for producers to share ideas.
English wines are exported around the world, with the US and Japan particularly enjoying the quality products emanating from this island, and Yorkshire Heart are flying the flag for the White Rose County.
As well as the tours restarting in May, Yorkshire Heart will open up a brand new visitor centre for 2016, along with a café and shop, bringing extra tourism to their corner of Yorkshire and supporting an array of charities such as St Michael’s Hospice, Yorkshire Air Ambulance, British Red Cross and Help for Heroes. Now that’s something else to raise a glass to.