this biodynamic wine estate in Monmouth, Wales
Hill is based in Monmouth, Wales, just a short distance outside
town. There are 4 hectares of vines here: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, a
little bit of Triomphe and some AlbariŮo. Viticulture here is
certified biodynamic. Thereís also a second site that has recently
been planted on a south facing slope, which will take overall
plantings to 12 hectares.
Richard and David Morris, Ancre
started off with a very cold spring and was quite a bit behind.
There was some frost damage here for the first time. The vines that
escaped this have caught up, while those with some damage are now
two weeks behind. With a good August and September, this could be a
very good vintage, albeit one reduced in size. The vines are pretty
clean, with just a bit of powdery to deal with.
The new site
first vines were planted here by Richard and Joy Morris in 2006.
First wines were released in 2008. Since 2011 their son David has
been working here, and he now makes the wines. 2011 is also the year
that Ancre Hill converted to biodynamic viticulture.
This window shows the straw bales used to
construct the winery
winery was completed in 2015, and they reckon this is the largest
traditional straw bale construction in the world. Itís an impressive
building, and full of new kit. Initial budget was £1 million, and
they received a 40% grant from the EU to help with construction.
Eventually it cost £1.2 m.
Geneva double curtain
vineyard is unusual in that it is trellised with Geneva double
curtain. Itís a split canopy system, with the cordons high above the
ground and the shoots trained downwards. Originally developed in New
York state for use with hybrids, itís actually well suited to this
vigorous site. The downward training of the shoots reduces their
vigour naturally. The position of the fruiting zone leaves it very
exposed to sunlight, which is a good thing here. It also allows for
a lot of air movement to reduce disease pressure. The height of the
canopy keeps the vine free from ground frost risk, and allows them
to let the grass grow more freely with fewer passes for mowing.
have fantastic soils here,í says David. ĎWith these deep soils we
have one of the best places in Europe for fungi and bacteria.í He
says that there is also amazing insect life in the vineyards.
Because of the deep soils, they get the vine in balance by leaving
36-40 buds per plant.
soils are a deep, old reddish loam. David doesnít lust after the
famous chalk soils of Champagne. ĎI wouldnít plant in chalk if
someone paid me,í he says. ĎItís a very delicate soil, it doesnít
hold nutrients, and you donít get the diversity we have in our
vineyard. It works well for a linear Chardonnay, but it doesnít work
well for Pinot.í
10 days he will do a spray, using tissane as a base Ė itís a plant
tea brewed at 40 C for 24 hours. To this can be added various other
plant preparations such as willow, nettle and horsetail. The willow
and horsetail act to induce systemic resistance in the vines. This
really helps reduce disease risk, and downy mildew hasnít been a
problem: they havenít had to use copper for three years now. They
also havenít had any problems with botrytis.
winery has seven concrete tanks, a quartet of concrete eggs and a
Stockinger foudre, as well as an array of barrels and stainless
steel tanks. Fermentation is all native yeast and bacteria, with an
organic EC1118 yeast used for the second fermentation for the fizz.
We tried a couple of samples of the same base wine for 2015 Pinot
Noir, one aged in oak and the other in eggs. I had a preference for
the egg, but both were lovely samples.
picks the grapes purely by flavour, and doesnít do any analysis
until he has to. Heís looking for phenolic ripeness, and this can be
achieved without losing acidity.
Ancre Hill Estates Blanc de Blancs 2010 Monmouth, Wales
Zero dosage. 5 years on lees, disgorged last week. Fine citrus
nose is really linear with citrus, pear and subtle hazelnut
characters. Lovely pithy notes, too. Real finesse and balance with
well integrated acidity. 91/100
Ancre Hill Estates Blanc de Blancs 2012 Monmouth, Wales
This is a long way from being ready and was hand disgorged for
this tasting. It was a difficult vintage resulting in a small
harvest, but the analyses were pretty good. Very reductive and
mineral at the moment, but should pull through and be an
interesting, fine wine.
Ancre Hill Estates Blanc de Blancs 2013 Monmouth, Wales
The first vintage David made, this was bottled after 2 years
this February, so itís just a baby. But it is showing lovely
potential. Creamy with a distinctive oily grapefruit character and
some nuts. Really distinctive with lovely fruit. 90-92/100
Ancre Hill Estates Sparkling Rosť 2011 Monmouth, Wales
Disgorged 3 weeks ago, this has 7.5 g/l dosage. Itís 2/3 Pinot
and 1/3 Chardonnay. Fine floral aromatic cherry fruit nose with
strawberries and cherries, as well as a hint of sweetness. Lovely
fruit here. 90/100
Ancre Hill Estates Chardonnay 2014 Monmouth, Wales
Very fine and expressive with citrus, pear and ripe apple.
Lovely precision and good acidity with some lemony brightness.
Hill Estates Rosť 2014 Monmouth, Wales
Pinot Noir, with Chardonnay and Triomphe the balance. This is hard
pressings from the sparkling. Very pale colour. Textural and fine
with real class. Subtle sappiness and a lovely mineral core. Very
Ancre Hill Estates Pinot Noir 2013
Half carbonic and all new oak. Herbs, spice
and cedar with elegant red cherry fruit. Such finesse and focus here
with fine spiciness. Maybe just a touch too much spicy oak? 88/100
Ancre Hill Estates Pinot Noir 2014
Supple and expressive with fine herbal notes.
Real finesse to the red cherries: so pretty and floral with a hint
of matchstick on the palate. Stylish but needs a bit more time to
Ancre Hill Estates Triomphe 2013 Monmouth,
Lively and zippy with some spice. Very pure
with some grip, and fresh with some CO2 in the wine still. Very
drinkable style. 88/100
Ancre Hill Estates
Triomphe 2014 Monmouth, Wales
100% carbonic maceration. Really powerful and
intense with high lemony acidity under the vivid berry fruits.
Really intense stuff. 87/100
Ancre Hill Estates AlbariŮo
50 days maceration on skins. Cloudy yellow
colour. Floral aromatics. pear, peach and nectarine fruit. Bright
and pithy with high acidity. A really interesting, brave wine that
needs food. 89/100
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