Our tour of Denbies Vineyard

What a great way to start December, with a visit to the lovely Denbies Vineyard, near Dorking. As the M25 was pretty smooth running for a change we arrived at the Vineyard a little early for our tour, which gave us an excuse for a coffee and catch-up, before meeting our very knowledgeable and helpful guide. The tour we took was mostly around the distillery, but Denbies also offer a tour around the vineyards in the summer months.

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We kicked off our tour in their impressive 360 degree cinema where we enjoyed a film about the history of the Denbies Estate and an explanation of why the founder decided that the area was an idea place to produce wine. The geology of the site was comparable to the Champagne Region of France, with a chalk layer which creates excellent drainage for the vine roots which need moisture, but mustn’t get waterlogged. Also the Estate sits in a natural basin with South facing slopes to maximize the sunshine for the fruit to ripen. The varieties of grapes grown at Denbies are specially selected to suit our cooler climate and are similar to those grown in Germany and other parts of Northern Europe.

Following the film, we proceeded to the distillery, where there were huge wine vats which are capable of storing thousands of litres of wine at any given time. We learnt that the majority of grapes are picked by hand as this is gentler than mechanical harvesting and keeps more of the fruit unbroken. This gives the best quality of wine because as soon as the fruit is juiced it begins to decay and it impacts on the wine quality.

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We then moved to the bottling area. After three years of storage on their side in the cellar the sparking wine is then turned upside down in the bottling area to allow all the natural sediment to collect in the neck of the bottle. The neck is then frozen to trap the sediment. When the bottle is opened, the natural gases in the wine push the frozen sediment out of the bottle, leaving a lovely clear liquid behind. The bottles are then topped up with a little extra sugar and wine and re-corked.

The wire and the foil wrapper are then applied followed by the label. The foil was originally used not only for decoration but also to conceal the level of wine in the bottles as this used to vary.

After all this education it was time to taste the produce, my favourite part! We were treated to a Rose, a still white and a sparkling white. Sadly due to the bad weather in 2012 the grapes for the white still wine had to be sourced from Germany. However with this year's lovely summer the stocks have now been fully replenished and their own grapes will now be exclusively used once again. I found all three wines delicious.

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Once we surfaced from the wine tasting in the cellar we were treated to a superb turkey lunch with desert and coffee, the food and service were both excellent.

With a quick look around the wine and gift shop we then boarded the coach, having had a thoroughly enjoyable and educational day. Thank you to everyone who came along to support this event.