Ask anyone to name the things that they associate with Wales and it’s highly unlikely that 'wine' would figure too prominently on most people’s lists. Yet vines have been grown in Wales since the Roman era for, as we all know, the Romans travelled nowhere without the essentials of life. Today, Welsh wine is served to visiting dignitaries at banquets and in the British House of Commons, one of them being from the Llanerch Vineyard, situated just north of Cardiff in the Vale of Glamorgan.
Llanerch is the largest commercial vineyard in Wales, with seven acres of vines under cultivation and the distinction of more than 20 awards garnered from international competitions. The first vines were planted in 1986 by the vineyard's founder, Peter Andrews, who added more vines every year until 1991, and bottled the first Llanerch wine in 1990.
Andrews retired in 2007 but Llanerch’s new owners, Carole Growcott and Scott Williams, are making their own mark in a bid to raise the vineyard’s profile.
As well as tours and wine tastings, in October 2008 Llanerch launches its own Cookery School with renowned food writer, broadcaster and television chef, Angela Gray, recruited as the Course Director and guest chefs that will include best-selling cookery writer, Sophie Grigson.
In addition, Growcott and Williams have expanded the business with the addition of a new restaurant, The Calon, launched in partnership with Head Chef Michael Edwards who previously earned himself a Michelin star at the acclaimed Lucknam Park.
As you would expect, the Calon menu will feature a number of Llanerch's own wines, though the grape varieties might be a little unfamiliar to some diners. No conventional cabernets or standard chardonnays here in the Vale of Glamorgan, but instead there are grapes which adapt better to the Welsh climate. At Llanerch they grow six different varieties: Seyval Blanc, Triomphe, Kernling, Huxelrebe, Reichensteiner and the aptly-named Bacchus, from which they produce four whites, a rosé and a sparkling rosé. As the names indicate, several of the wines are grafted from German stock, which adapt well to the damp conditions.
Llanerch wines are sold under the Cariad label, the Welsh word for Love. As well as the House of Commons, they can be found in Sainsbury's supermarkets throughout Wales or purchased directly from the vineyard.
Llanerch is no stranger to celebrities as the vineyard also offers accommodation including self-catering cottages and guest rooms in the main house. Visitors have included actors Christopher Cazenove, Richard Briers and Hannah Gordon, as well as Welsh opera star Leslie Garrett, who stayed for a month while rehearsing for an opera at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff.
The vineyard’s 20 acres comprises woodland walks, a lake and abundant wildlife and represents the ideal place for total peace and quiet, particularly if you fancy enjoying a glass or two of Cariad at the end of the day. Perfect!
Vale of Glamorgan
Wales CF72 8GG
Daily Guided Tours at 2pm (£8 per person).
Self Guided Tours
Llanerch Vineyard is open to the public daily (except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day) from 10am-6pm. A map of the grounds is included in the £6 entry fee.