Don’t say “Bonne Annee!”, “Feliz Anon Neuvo!”, “Buon Anno!” or “Happy New Year” anymore. See in the New Year with “Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!” and a flute or two PGI status Welsh bubbly.
The English are winning awards for their sparkling wines. And it’s not all Kent and Sussex. The Wraxall Vineyard in the Somerset Mendips near Shepton Mallett produces a quality sparkler as well as a quality early Pinot Noir rose.
But Wales is making up for lost time with Cymru Cava, Principality Prosecco, Cambrian Franciacorta, Welsh Sekt and Celtic Champagne.
Or, as some would like to be known, “Pefriog”. That’s the Welsh word for sparkling.
Andy Mounsey, owner of Velfrey Vineyard in Lampeter Valley near Narbeth in Pembrokeshire and chairman of the Welsh Vineyards Association, says giving Wales’ sparkling wine a bespoke name would bring advantages to the industry. Welsh Fizz is no good. Welsh Sparkling doesn’t trip off the tongue. They don’t offer brand identity.
“Wales produces over 100,000 bottle of wine a year. Its sparkling wines are produced using quality grapes and the best quality methods to produce really high-quality wines, wines that are absolutely unique to Wales. Let’s have a name that reflects that. Like Pev-ree-og.”
“Swigod”, Welsh for bubbles and “Eferw” have also been mooted.
Velfrey NV Traditional Method Sparkling Brut and Rhosyn 2021 Traditional Method Vintage Sparkling Brut Rosé have just been awarded a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) for its sparkling Bruts to safeguard them against imitation and misuse. Only 5,000 to 10,000 bottles of Velfrey NV have been made.
According to Mounsey, the location brings its own challenges:
“Which means that careful selection of varieties and rootstock is essential alongside really considered management of the canopy and use of natural products like seaweed and tisanes to keep the leaves healthy.”
Pefriog from Gwinllan Conwy on the north coast is made from the Solaris grape and aged for only a few months on the lees to preserve its crispness and exotic fruit notes.
Pefriog Phoenix Sparkling White comes from the Phoenix Grape and is aged for three years. Rhosliw Pefriog Sparkling Rosé uses the Regent grape variety with flavours of crunchy red fruit, cranberry and rosehip.
The vineyard’s Charlotte Bennett says:
“We make our sparkling wines using cool climate variety, whereas English sparkling is in majority using Champagne varieties.”
There are now forty vineyards in Wales. Glyndwr is the oldest family-run vineyard in Wales. Its rosé is made in the traditional method from a blend of Rondo and Seyval Blanc grapes. It displays delicate strawberry fruit overlaid by fresh biscuity notes.
Ancre Hill of Monmouthshire won the prestigious Bollicine del Mondo, when their 2008 sparkling white was voted the best sparkling wine in the world. The vineyard has released its “Bio-dynamic fizz” Pefriog 2018, while Gwinllan Conwy’s ‘Pefriog’ white achieved a silver medal in the 2017 International Wine Challenge Awards.
Ancre Hills uses Chardonnay and Pinot Noir but also Triomphe in its sparkling wine range. The sparkling rosé from Tintern Parva uses 100% Pinot Noir, whereas their white sparkling named ‘Dathliad’ (meaning celebration) which in 2016 won best Welsh wine, is made from Seyval Blanc and Huxelrebe.
Phoenix and Seyval Blanc make up the sparkling white wine of White Castle Vineyard, Monmouthshire, while Carmarthenshire vineyard Jabajak uses Seyval Blanc and Phoenix tinted with Rondo for its Blush Sparkling. Glyndwr in the Vale of Glamorgan uses Seyval Blanc and Triomphe d’Alsace while Sugarloaf Vineyard near Abergavenny also uses Seyval Blanc.
Llaethliw, near Aberaeron in Ceredigion, West Wales, opts for Orion and Regent. “Llaethliw” means the colour of milk.
“Wales produces wines of fantastic quality, some of which have won the highest accolades in prestigious international competitions. It is delicious but also diverse, with everything from still reds, whites and rosés, to sparkling whites and rosés, to dessert wines and fortified wines found right across the country.
“But we still get a fair amount of ‘I never knew you could produce wine in Wales!’ So, our New Year’s resolution is to do something about that.”
Kevin Pilley is a former professional cricketer and chief staff writer of PUNCH magazine. His humour, travel, food and drink work appear worldwide, and he has been published in over 800 titles.
Photographs courtesy of Velfrey Vineyard