Cornish Wine's Fame Spreads Across World

The belief that the best bottles of wine come from the Continent has been shattered by the leaps and bounds made by Westcountry vineyards in gaining international respect.

In the space of ten days, one vineyard has been visited by a famous New Zealand winemaker, approached by a thirs supermarket wanting to stock its wine after persistent demands from customers, and launched the first EU recognised Cornish regional rose.

Camel Valley Vineyards, based at Nanstallon, Bodmin, is leading the way for winemakers across the region and proving that buying local does mean buying best.
Bob Lindo, 55, who owns the family-run vineyard, said the battle to be recognised as a separate entity to English winemakers was important in helping represent Cornwall throughout the shops and eateries he supplies nationally.

‘It was the first time Cornwall was recognised as a separate region to England,’ he said. ‘To me that’s important because I think if you don’t know exactly where something comes from, you have no idea where it comes from.’

‘You can get chicken in Thailand, cut it up in Britain, and it becomes British for labelling purposes.

‘The most important thing for us is to be able to put the truth on the label. The grapes come from Cornwall and the Cornish distinctiveness is what we are all about really.’

The wines were first stocked in local restaurants and have gone on to adorn wine lists in the most prestigious.

‘We have always been in restaurants’ Mr Lindo said. ‘The reason we are in the Seafood Restaurant is because Rick Stein’s customers asked for us.

‘We are in the Hakkasan restaurant in London – a place you can go and be sitting next to the likes of Noel Gallagher.’

The supermarket shelves are a tougher territory to claim, but Camel Valley now receives requests from big name stores. Mr Lindo said, ‘We are stocked in about 12 Waitrose stores from here to Bath and Bournemouth and back, in a triangle to here. We are also in local Safeways in Cornwall and local Asdas.

‘I have just had a phone call from Sainsbury’s – they want to stock us in their Truro store. The message said they had decided to stock us because they were sick of being asked for our wine by local people and having to say they didn’t have it.’

Proof that buying local means buying best comes with the endorsement signified by a visit from internationally-famous New Zealand winemaker, Kim Crawford last Wednesday. ‘News of our produce is getting about a bit,’ Mr Lindo said.

Camel Valley Vineyards attribute the style of their wines – including the regular sell-out 2003 Camel Valley Syval Blanc, 2003 Camel Valley Bacchus Quality Wine and 2003 Camel Valley Red – to the area’s mild climate, concentration of clear sunlight and pure air.

As this style appears to be gaining popularity, they have recently expanded from 8,000 to 14,000 vines. ‘We are seriously considering doubling that over the next 2 years,’ Mr Lindo said.

The wines have won numerous awards, including the 2001 English Wine Producers Trophy and two International Wine Challenge awards. They have been used to represent Cornwall at the House of Lords and the Southampton Boat Show, as well as commemorating the Eden Project’s millionth visitor, for a reception for the Queen; to lay the stone for Cornwall’s new university, and to open the new stand at Plymouth Argyle FC.

Despite the success of Camel Valley, the company is not losing its family touch. Mr Lindo is accompanied by wife Annie in running the business with son Sam, 27. Daughter Esther, 23, is a teacher at MontPellier School in Plymouth, but still helps at the vineyard.

Other Westcountry vineyards are following suit in terms of success, while some have chosen a different route.

Yearlstone Vineyard at Bickleigh, near Tiverton, launched its own wine bar and care a week ago. The Vineyard Terrace Café is already proving popular.

Yearlstone Wines are not stocked in supermarkets but have long been in local restaurants, and supplying the demand is a challenge.

Roger White, of Yearlstone Vineyard, said; ‘We sold out last year in the third week in August, so our problem is in keeping up the production, not sales. We have doubled production this year but still we could run out.’

Yearlstone launched five new wines during English Wine Week, from May 29 to June 6.

Juliet White said; ‘To ensure a good harvest it is essential to have excellent weather during August and September – key ripening months for grapes. Due to the wonderful summer last year, 2003 is a great year for English wines. Our five new wines are typically English, light and fragrant for easy drinking.

Western Morning News Monday June 14th 2004

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