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Monday, 24 April 2017

A day in a Leicestershire vineyard

A  sunny Sunday Spring afternoon in Leicestershire, and it was time to taste some wine.

I was at the Rothley Wine Estate in North Leicestershire for another visit to Liz Robson's vineyard along with other invited guests. Liz is a former lecturer at De Montfort University who began the vineyard as a hobby. Nine years later, she has a two acre vineyard in what was her mother's garden  and she is a vintner.


Liz's wines were flowing to celebrate the  launch of a new disabled access route around the two acre vineyard and the official opening of the small tasting room with such glorious views over the gardens and vineyard.
Sue Lobb, a wine expert and tutor performed the honours. Having had polio as a child, she's been using a wheelchair for the last ten years. As she told me, it's very rare  to able to go into  vineyards in a wheelchair and to have special loos to use, especially in Europe. So she's delighted by the new facilities here in Rothley.
"So, what would you like  to try first? "Laura Hadland, a senior museum curator and food and drinks blogger, who volunteers at the vineyard was proffering a glass with an inquiring smile. It was warm so I decided on the Sparkling Orion, This sparkling white was just what I needed, chilled and dry, oh so bubbly with a hint of pears.
Nibbles were on each table, canapés being circulated, so with glasses in hand, we sat chatting in the gardens. Some drifted off to test the wheelchair access route or to wander around the vineyards whilst others hovered around the testing tables.

 I decided to taste the pink fizz next. It's called the Spirit of Freedom , a name with a nod to the Rothley Temple, now a hotel which is next door. This is where William Wilberforce came to meet local landowner Thomas Babbington. They were both fervent in their desire to end the slave trade, and over a series of meeting s here, they drafted what became an act of parliament to abolish slavery.

This is an easy drinker with the sweetness of strawberries, not as effervescent as the sparkling Orion. Made from orion, siegerebbe, regent and pinot precose grapes, this could be dangerous - very refreshing when you're thirsty and all too easy to sink a bottle of this in  a short space of time.

I went off to wander around the vines.

They're all in bud, in lines patiently waiting for the warmer weather.  

The last time I came to meet Liz was in September 2015, to record an interview about how she feared the lack of sunshine could so adversely affect her harvest after an awful summer.
The vines were full of fruit, such a picture of promise that it was hard to think of a disaster. Luckily the sun came out just in time and for enough hours each day for the crisis to be averted.
Back to an April afternoon though...


If the vines were just waking up, at one end of the vineyard was a long row of morello cherries in blossom


Whilst at the top of the vineyard, there were lines of wheelbarrows ready for action.

Work on a Sunday afternoon ? Oh no, the thought of another glass of something was far more appealing, so I made my way back up to the house and garden, past the cherry tree..

and back to where others had the same idea

 Time then, for a glass of Liz's elderflower wine, grown from the elderflowers on  her land whilst saying my goodbyes and thank yous.  Liz is justifiably proud of her vineyard, on what was originally a field. And these new additions to the vineyard, the disabled loos and access are very close to her heart as her mother couldn't go to many attractions outside because of the lack of them.

Tours and tastings are now available at this vineyard. The next one is on Saturday 13 May, costs £10 for an hour's tour around the vineyard and the ancient Kingfisher Pool followed by an hour's tasting and talk.

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