We’re making the most of our extensive knowledge of Derbyshire to take you alphabetically on a journey around the county, one week at a time, from ‘A’ to ‘Z’.
If you have a suggestion for a particular letter, let us know!
We begin, of course, with the letter ‘A’ and this takes us first to Amber Valley Vineyards situated close to the village of Wessington.
A warm welcome awaits visitors to the family-run vineyards. You’ll be able to take a look around, see the products and enjoy a tour as well as some fabulous local wines!
The owner and managing director, Barry Lewis, is formerly chief executive of Wine GB, the national growers body for the English and Welsh wines industry.
As an industry expert, Barry loves to share his love of the industry and he leads all the tours and tastings.
It’s a family business, with Barry’s wife and daughter supporting at both the cellar door shop and pop-up bar.
Award-winning too, Amber Valley’s 2016 Lindway White won ‘Highly Commended’ at the International Wine Challenge (IWC) competition on its first entry.
Amber Valley Wines’ story actually began back in 2011. Like all good stories, it followed a discussion in a pub!
Barry Lewis and Duncan Mercer planted a few vines on an allotment site and soon realised they were onto something.
They quickly planted their first proper vineyards at Doehole and Back Lane in 2012.
From these, they produced their first vintage in 2014 for release in 2015 – an aromatic and delicious white and a luscious and dry rose. These were named Lindway White and Lindway Pink, both of which were produced up to 2016.
Barry says: “It hasn’t always been easy. Growing vines in the UK is always going to be challenging and here in the northern climes of Derbyshire it will be particularly so.
“For example we planted our vines in some pretty challenging snowy conditions in April 2012, also one of the wettest years on record, and then the harvest of 2017 was a write off – thanks to the devastating frosts of that spring.”
Amber Valley Vineyards’ wines take their name, Lindway, from the neighbouring fishing lakes at Doehole, which afforded some protection to the young vines in the hard frosts in spring 2014.
Barry took over the whole business in 2018, and now runs it with his family – as he and his wife Katharine already owned the land it was an easy decision.
After a disastrous harvest in 2017, Amber Valley Wines bounced back with a great harvest in 2018 and launched a new range of wines in 2019.
Better yet, they have also produced their first sparkling wine from this vintage, and this will be released in 2021.
The Amber Valley Vineyards are still young, and just coming into their own now – capable of producing a consistently good crop.
In common with many UK vineyards, this is a low-yielding vineyard, which Barry believes translates into hard-won quality.
The company logo bears the latin ‘Bene tenax’ high means ‘rightly tenacious’ – highly appropriate for growing grapes and producing wines in Derbyshire.
Barry believes it also says something about the challenges of growing a business, on the back of growing vines and producing wines in the north of the Midlands.
Enthusiasts will also be pleased to hear that there is an Amber Valley Wine Club – an informal opportunity for people to gather every couple of months at the cellar door and sample some of the fruits of Barry and his team’s labours.
Rondo is the most-planted red variety at Amber Valley, whilst and is the mainstay of their pink wine, blended with Phoenix for the 2018 vintage.
Barry says it has “a lovely racy acidity, fresh cranberry-like fruit character.” Amber Valley Wines also grows an early-ripening clone of Pinot Noir, along with Pinot Meunier.
They grow a range of grapes for still and sparkling white wines. Of the white varieties (some of which are experimental) most go into still white or rose (along with the red varieties).
Solaris is the most widely planted white variety and is an aromatic and fruity early-ripener that has good disease resistance.
Next is Seyval blanc, a higher acid variety that makes great fizz. They have lots of Phoenix too, which has Bacchus as one of its parents and has Sauvignon fruit character.
Other minor white grape varieties grown by Amber Valley Vineyards include Chardonnay-like Auxerrois and spicy Siegerrebe.
For more information, visit: www.ambervalleywines.co.uk
(All photos, credit: www.ambervalleywines.co.uk)