In this episode I'm introducing you to a good friend of the Yard and fellow RAU Alumni, Angus McIntyre.
Tucked away in the Wye Valley just South of Ross-on-Wye, Angus' 16th Century family home is without-doubt one of Herefordshire's most unique and historic properties (a conservation project he and his Father are enjoying getting stuck into!). However, just to the side sits Angus' main passion; the vineyard.
Though Angus' vineyard is not just another amongst many here around the Welsh boarders, for he seems to be producing some rather superb wine. So much so, his Pinot Noir was the only bottle in Britain to win a prestigious award medal for its year!

Angus, provide us with a breakdown with regards to the history of your vineyard and what it is today.

The vineyard was planted by my family in 2010 with the purpose of producing quality wine and preserving Wythall for future generations. Wythall Manor itself is now over 500 years old and has never been sold, remaining in our family all that time. Our first vintage was a white and a rosé produced in 2014. Now in our 14th year, we like to think we have come a long way since those first few bottles 10 years ago and focus is now turning increasingly to the wine tourism side of our business.

When most people think of a vineyard - Herefordshire almost certainly doesn’t come to mind. Obviously, we don’t see the same weather as the likes of France & New Zealand; So how does our climate dictate what grapes you grow?

We are very fortunate here at Wythall regarding our location – a real micro-climate. First of all, nestled at the bottom of a valley, we have a freshwater stream meandering through which helps with airflow and secondly, we are surrounded by woodland.
Airflow helps lessen our disease pressure and threat of frost damage whilst woodland helps harness warmth on summer days and provides birds with a source of food other than our grapes!
Furthermore, our varieties are all cool climate varieties chosen to suit our site and soil conditions helping them ripen at the right time and thrive in South Herefordshire. The knowledge around UK viticulture has also come on so much from the early days of English Wine in the 70/80’s, ensuring the right vine is in the right place and the knowledge of wine making from some of these lesser-known varieties is now far greater.
It is also thought our climate today is the same as Champagne was about 20 years ago, enabling us to produce some truly spectacular sparkling wine.

Take us through your existing wines – what is so unique about each of them?

 We have two different red wines which is quite unusual for a cool climate vineyard. Our Ferdinando is an easy-drinking red blend of Pinot Noir and Rondo whilst we also have our Oak Reserve; a special red made from 100% oak-aged rondo. This is a luxurious wine with a beautiful deep garnet tone and notes of black fruits, vanilla and caramel.
We also have our white wine – Siegerrebe. An unusual variety that not many have heard of which is similar to a Gewürztraminer or ripe Mosel Riesling. Delightful notes of elderflower and white peach with good, clean acidity makes it a real winner, particularly refreshing in the warmer months.
We have a rosé too! Although we are now down to very last few bottles of the 750 produced from our 2021 vintage. Incredibly popular at our Wine Garden events in 2023, this wine has an expressive nose of soft, mellowed fruit – apricot, honey, ginger whilst showing flavours of freshly crushed strawberries and cream on the palate.
Finally our Classic Cuvée sparkling. As far as I am aware this is the only English sparkling wine to be made from 100% Orion, making it completely unique! It’s a wine with great body helping it pair really well with food and making it far more than just an aperitif. Wonderfully light bubbles create a mouthfeel of soft mousse before notes of baked apples, pears, citrus, and pineapple coat your mouth.

Good wine and good food is a combination that can go so well together. Do you have any favourite pairings for your wines? 

Absolutely! Good food and wine pairings that work well together can help elevate your meal so much. Here are some of my favourites:
Our Ferdinando and Oak Reserve go really nicely with red meats such as beef and lamb or even better with lighter meats such as duck or goose that complement the medium bodied nature of the wine. Their easy drinking nature also makes them an absolute winner on cosy nights in by the fire.
Segerrebe is a delight with certain food. Its good level of acidity and freshness help it cut through oily fish such as mackerel and its floral nature make it a real treat with Thai green curry! Or if you’re looking to keep it all local, you cannot go wrong with Siegerrebe and some buttery Wye Valley asparagus, after all what grows together goes together!
Rosé works well with pink food! Salmon is always a favourite of mine. It also makes a great companion on warm summer days with a picnic.
As for our sparkling, there's plenty of options. Terrific body and depth allow this sparkle to go brilliantly with hard, crumbly cheeses. Seafood is always a winning pairing as are many chicken-based dishes. My personal favourite however would have to our 2020 Classic Cuvée and fish and chips! Every mouthful is a delight as the wine cuts through the oils beautifully cleansing your palate and making each mouthful fresher than the last.

Now, I know that you previously had a very special red wine… What was its accolade and what made it such a winner? 

Yes! Our Pinot Noir 2019 which came home from the national IEWA competition as the only red wine in the whole of the UK to win a gold medal that year. This was an amazing achievement for us and a real springboard to bigger things as we saw our wine on national television, national newspapers, and the social media coverage incredible! What made it such a winner was the fantastic fruit we harvested that year, but also the larger than usual 2018 crop. The larger crop allowed us to experiment a little as we had more fruit than normal.
We put 15% of our 2018 Pinot into oak barrel for 12 months before blending with our high quality 2019 juice. This was the first time we had done this, and it certainly worked. We will be doing a similar thing both this year and next, as we have returned high yields from our past two years. Then we will once again have our single variety Pinot Noir back in stock!

What are the key steps that go towards running a vineyard to try and guarantee a good crop?  

Being at the mercy of the weather all year means we can never guarantee a good crop when it comes to quantity and quality but there are several measures we take to give our vineyard the best possible chance!
It all starts with pruning in the winter months before keeping our fingers crossed for no late frosts in late April/May. No frosts at this time enable the new shoots to get off to the best possible start as the growing season begins. We are then hoping for a good summer full of long daylight hours, plenty of sun and a not too much humidity – some rainfall is good however! September is then our most important month as the bunches have formed, and ripening has begun. We are looking for a nice warm dry spell to finish the ripening and get our grapes to the sugar and acid levels we want before harvesting in late September to late October.

I know that you are very hands-on with the work at home. Where does your passion come from?

 I think the passion comes from my desire to look after the place. As previously mentioned, Wythall Manor has been in my family for over 500 years now, so to sell or permanently move away is just unthinkable! 
This history means we see ourselves more as stewards than owners, looking after it and preserving it for future generations. To do this however, Wythall has to bring money in to look after itself as well as sustain our living and allow us to restore the property. I believe that the vineyard can do this so it’s a case of putting the work in to get it to where we want it to be.
Lastly, having never lived anywhere else, I know what an incredible place it is to grow up and would love for the next generation to experience that too.

English Wine feels like it’s the next ‘thing’. We’ve seen gin & ‘craft’ beers boom, it feels like wine could be next… What are your thoughts on the future of the industry? 

I think with increasing focus from the consumer on sourcing top quality local produce English wine will go from strength to strength. Being such a young industry, knowledge, scalability, and expertise are increasing all the time as advances in specialist machinery help matters both in the vineyard and in the winery.

What does the future hold for the vineyard - any exciting movements ahead? 

Going forward we are looking to continue the good work in the vineyard to give us the best possible fruit to work with. As we are purely estate based, we don’t buy any grapes in from elsewhere, we are entirely dependent on our vineyards producing top quality fruit year on year.
We will be increasing our focus on the wine tourism side of the business too as we look to host a wider variety of events in a range of different settings from our private gardens to the vineyard itself. The possibilities going forward on this aspect of the vineyard are exciting for us.
Lastly, some more vines in the ground would be good to enable us to produce more top quality stilll and sparkling English wine!

For someone looking to try your wines, where can they find them? 

We sell the majority of our wines from our cellar door through our classic tasting tours which run from Easter weekend all the way through to Christmas and increasingly our summer Wine Garden which will be starting up again in late April. We also have local
stockists including Pengethly Farmshop, Truffles Delicatessen in Ross and Ludlow Farmshop to name a few. A full list can be found on our website.
Thomas Pearson