English wine wins major award

When an English wine wins an award from true connoisseurs it’s certainly worth a mention, but when a red wine made near Stourbridge in the Midlands wins a Silver Medal in competition with 14,392 other wines from 52 countries, it’s worth a rousing toast.

Halfpenny Greens Vineyards is the site of an unexpected achievement, and luck as well as determination and considerable experience all played their parts in reaching it. Halfpenny Greens has been farmed by three generations of the Vickers family; the first vines were planted in 1983 and the first bottles sold in 1985. Martin Vickers is the overall boss and his son Clive is now the winemaker.

Mr. Vickers Sr. said nobody thought England could produce an outstanding wine with that high an alcohol content (the medal-winner came in at 15%) but his vineyard proved it can be done, given the right circumstances. In this case it was an unusually dry summer and an equally unusual hot September in 2011 that raised the sugar content in the grapes.

The 2011 robust red is robust indeed at that alcohol content, but this is not your average fortified plonk; this wine delighted the palates of 219 wine experts from 27 countries and won a silver medal in the world’s biggest wine competition, the Decanter Wine Awards. The winning wine is called Rondo after the grape that made it, a hybrid developed by a Czech scientist who was looking for a grape that could stand up to frost and damp.

The Vickers have achieved at least one of their goals – to create one of the most northerly vineyards in Europe. Wines with the high alcohol content of the Rondo 2011 usually come from Italy, California or Australia, but the site of Halfpenny Greens Vineyards is quite ideal for the purpose. The grapes are planted on gently sloping hills that are south-facing and made of sandstone soil, which warms up quickly and promotes the sweetness in grapes that turns potent in wine.