Wine Tasting at Forty Hall Vineyard in Enfield
A vineyard tour with wine tasting on a Sunday certainly piqued my interest when My Wine Week mentioned applying for tickets. I conjured up images of a sunny afternoon sitting amongst the vines sipping on a glass of wine out in the counties.
Fortunately, the weather was very fair that weekend and so that box was ticked, and the bonus is that the vineyard in question is located in north London on the Forty Hall Estate! I always remember hearing the venue Forty Hall mentioned when I was a child and imagined a faraway, lavish, grand building and estate. However, the estate is still inside the M25 and so it is ideal for a weekend daytrip.
I have visited the house and the grounds on a few occasions since then but this was the first time that I had ever visited the vineyard and I had to arrive for a 10.30am start! I was due at the vineyard that morning for the launch of its new still white wines, the 2018 Ortega and Bacchus wines.
With over 10 acres of land in the vineyard and at least 14,000 vines, this is London’s only community vineyard and it is entirely run by volunteers! The Forty Hall Vineyard can be accessed from Forty Hall Farm. The walk, past several fields, to the vineyard was reminiscent of my visit to the Denbies wine estate the previous winter. Fortunately, there were several guides along the route! Furthermore, a prominent sign was displayed providing the location of the specific vineyard for the wine tasting.
Not knowing what to expect, I followed the sign and I was then presented with a table full of the wines being served.
The Start of the Wine Tasting
The first wine to sample was the Ortega which is created from a German grape blend. It is crisp and refreshing with a slight elderflower flavour and a citrus content and would be the perfect aperitif. Indeed, there were cheese biscuits and cheeses available to accompany the wine! There is also no sugar added at harvest and so it is ideal as a low sugar alternative. Its taste seemed very similar to a Riesling. This would certainly be the perfect wine for a warm summer’s day lunch!
We were then encouraged to try the second wine that was being launched which was the Bacchus. From observing its colour, which is golden and being immersed within its aromas, this was certainly a fuller bodied wine compared to the Ortega. For me, there was a powerful, fruitier flavour and I could immediately detect the gooseberry and believed that it resembled the taste of a Sauvignon Blanc. Similar to the Ortega there is no sugar added at harvest.
At that stage, my preference was still the Ortega! The vineyard only produces organic wines with all of the grapes used in the production being those obtained from the Forty Hall Vineyard. 2018 had proved to be a very good year indeed for the vineyard due to the warmer weather, which resulted in a higher yield!
The 2016 sparkling London Brut was also on display and so I couldn’t resist sampling that too! This wine comprises a similar grape variety to Champagne and uses the same production methods. The grapes involved are Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. Compared to the other two wines, the sparkling wine is sweeter but its dosage is still low compared to other sparkling wines. It is refreshing and ideal for a summer occasion as an alternative to Champagne or Prosecco!
Tour of the Vineyard
After sampling all of those wines on a warm summer’s morning it was then time to visit the vineyards involved in their production! The fields known as the long field and the warren field are where the grapes involved in producing the sparkling wine and Bacchus wine could be found. The vineyards are pruned heavily but natural sprays and fertilisers are used.
The vineyard itself is just 10 years old however, it operates as a social enterprise and as such is a not for profit organisation. Whilst on the tour, we also learnt about its ecotherapy programme, Flourish, that is also in operation at the vineyard. The project aims to create more therapeutic outdoor working opportunities. I was certainly impressed by the range of activities that the vineyard offers given that the concept of growing vines in London had previously been unheard of!
The wine production occurs in Tunbridge Wells involving a winemaker from Davenport vineyards. The wines are bottled, returned to the Forty Hall Vineyard and subsequently available for sale. I understood that such winemaking process itself takes approximately a minimum of 6 months and so I was certainly pleased to be amongst the first sampling this new vintage!
It was such an enjoyable afternoon learning about the vineyard and being part of the launch of its wines. The location itself would have been ideal for a picnic with a few benches close to the vines to continue sampling the wines and purchasing food produced from the farm. I certainly did return to sample the wines once more, following the tour, to be certain as to which wine to bring home with me that day!
You, too, can sample these new wines by visiting the Farmers’ Market at Forty Hall Farm which is on the second Sunday of each month. Equally, the wine can be purchased in the farm’s shop, the gift shop in the Forty Hall Museum and online. I would certainly recommend a visit! It is also a good location for a walk close to countryside as there is a nature trail upon the grounds of the Forty Hall Estate. It is very important to support these community-based initiatives and so I shall certainly return for more wine tasting!