A Travellerspoint blog

August 2020

Warden Abbey Vineyard

Exploring English Wines!

Greetings! Our next adventure took us to Bedfordshire to Warden Abbey Vineyard. Now, I know what you are thinking, I was thinking the same, the English are known for their beer, not so much their wines, but I have discovered they excel at both! The Vineyard is tucked away near the quintessential English village of Old Warden. We opted for the guided tour which was phenomenal and I would highly recommend it. It includes two tastings at the end. Our tour guide, Gerry, was absolutely fantastic! He gave us a brief overview of the Abbey and then we went onto the grounds and learned about the various grape varieties and a little history about wine making and caring for the vines. Warden Abbey Vineyard is cared for by volunteers and the Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity (BRCC). They do extensive outreach in the community with the vineyards, specifically working with schools in the area.

Warden Abbey Vineyards: https://www.wardenvineyard.org.uk

Now for a little history lesson...Warden Abbey was founded in 1135 and was home to a community of Cistercian monks who planted the two original vineyards, "Great Vineyard" and "Little Vineyard." Production was said to have peaked in the 12th century but natural disasters took a toll on the manpower in the 13th century. Henry VIII shut the Abbey down in 1537. The land came into the Whitbread family in 1786 and Lady Jane Whitbread successfully revived the tradition of winemaking on the land in 1986 following a trip to France. The land has been leased by BRCC since 2010.
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The Abbey would have been just beyond the building the background with the tall chimney.
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I learned there are about 650 registered vineyards in the United Kingdom, including four in Scotland. The soil here is similar to soil in Germany and best suited for white wines. The vines at Warden Abbey are about 35 years old and produce about 5,000 bottles of wine a year. In the vines' younger days, they could produce over 20,000 bottles of wine a year. Harvesting usually takes place in October. Gerry told us they don't have to water the vines much, except for the new vines. He also mentioned that muntjacs, rabbits and birds enjoy eating the vines. There are four varieties of grapes at Warden Abbey Vineyard: Bacchus, Reichensteiner, Regner, and Muller Thurgau.
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Various stages of growth of the vines:
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Grapes:
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There is also a medieval herb garden in the vineyard which grows herbs that would have been used by the monks.
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We also learned about the Warden Pear. Apparently it's a pretty hard pear; it takes four hours of cooking to be edible. It also stays good for several months!
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And of course I couldn't help myself, I bought the book.
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We also saw some beautiful roses and wild blueberries around the property. Gerry mentioned to us that winemakers in France would place roses at the end of the vine rows. The thought was that if mildew was going to attack the vines, it would start on the ends, rather than the vines, so the workers could hopefully see the mildew on the roses and take preventative action to prohibit mildew from growing on vines. Not so much the case any more.
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At the end of the tour, we tasted two wines: The Novicemaster 2018 and the Warden Abbey Brut 2015. Both were phenomenal! I am not a fan of white wines, usually only sweet wines or sparkling wines, but I really enjoyed both. The Novicemaster was named for the vineyard's master of wine of which there are only 350 in the world. The Queen was served the Warden Abbey Brut 2015 when she visited Dunstable for an event a few years ago. No one knows what she thought of it.
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We had a wonderful time at Warden Abbey Vineyards. The volunteers were absolutely wonderful and extremely knowledgable. The wines were fantastic, too! I'd love to return! On to the next adventure...

Posted by LCP 00:07 Archived in England Tagged england white vineyard grapes monks wine abbey historic warden Comments (1)

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