Vineyard Update – preparing the vines for the upcoming 2020 vintage

The past few weeks have presented a profound change to daily life for everyone across the UK. At Hencote, we have had to close our entire Estate to the public for the first time since our opening, including our restaurant The View, our Accommodation in the Grange and Glamping Village, our wine shop and all of our guided wine tours. Whereas much of our closure was mandated by Government restriction and we can technically still open our shop, we have felt that to fully ensure the safety of the wider public, maintaining a full closure of the Estate is necessary.

Nonetheless, our online wine shop remains open and we are incredibly grateful for all the support we have received through your orders in the past week and we hope that so long as we are unable to welcome you back to the Estate, that you can continue to enjoy our wines from the security of your homes.

Vineyard work in March

 

Where most of our Estate is closed, the essential work on our vineyard continues. We are now a few short weeks from budburst and the beginning of the 2020 season and our preparations over the winter have hopefully put us in the position for another fantastic year.

Vineyard work is a family affair at Hencote and the whole family have been out over the past few months to assist in pruning and tying each vine by hand, to put them in the best possible shape for start of the season. From all along the cane, new life will burst free in the coming weeks bringing with it green new growth and all the inflorescences which will transform into the delicious, plump grapes that makes our wine.

To help prepare our vines we’ve been carefully tying down the canes in a bow shape along our trellis wires. This allows even spacing between the new shoots which will burst along the canes later this month, signifiying the beginning of the growing season. With this event, known as budburst, comes one of the most crucial and challenging periods of every year – protecting the vines from Spring overnight frosts.

Frost Protection 

As any of you who have been on one of our wine tours will know, protection from Spring frosts is one of the most crucial events in every season’s calendar.

 

Overnight temperatures in Shrewsbury in April and May can plummet to below zero degrees, usually on evenings with clear skies and little wind or cloud coverage. Extended sub-zero temperatures will damage the young green shoots of the vine causing them to wither and die, leading to a total crop loss on all affected vines.

 

This where our frost protection equipment comes into action! By carefully monitoring temperatures that will indicate an upcoming frost event, a member of our Hencote wine team will then head out to the vineyard in the early hours of the morning to activate our Frostguard and our Cold Air Drain (pictured below), which act to stimulate air movement throughout the vineyard and raise the overall temperature of the site and to protect our vines.

 

With the possibility of up to ten frost events every Spring, the prospect of early mornings and overnight shifts really does make vineyard work a labour of love; but when the end result is happy, healthy vines it’s worth every moment.

 

Throughout this lockdown, we’ll be hoping to keep you entertained and informed through short videos of life in the vineyard and winery and the work that goes into making our wine. Stay tuned to our Instagram and Facebook for more!

Online Wine Shop open – free delivery on every order

 

Whilst we work on perfecting our 2020 vintage, why not stock up for the weeks ahead with your favourite Hencote wines? We’re now offering mixed cases for you to mix and match your preferred wines and free delivery on all orders nationwide.

Other News – Welcoming a new addition Kali!

 

In other news, please give a warm welcome to our newest addition to the Hencote team, Kali!

Kali is our 11 week old German Shepherd puppy pictured here on one of her daily vineyard walks. Once the Estate re-opens, we hope you’ll have a chance to meet her!

 

We sincerely hope you all stay safe and look forward to seeing you back at Hencote again and hopefully soon.

 

Best wishes from Mark & the whole team at Hencote

 

What makes a great sparkling wine?

No matter what style of sparkling wine, it is indeed the sparkle that is all-important. The bubble is dissolved carbon dioxide and it is the persistence, intensity and finesse of this that sets the quality of sparkling wine’s effervescence above that of other carbonated beverages.

The best method to achieve a potentially great sparkling wine is through a gentle fermentation of the well made still base wine under pressure in a bottle, allowing carbon dioxide gas as a product from fermentation to slowly infuse into the wine and bring it alive with a lasting elegant vibrancy.

Only the purest juice from the very best grapes can result in the finest wines. They are cellared in cool dark maturation for at least twelve months before being relieved of their yeast and resealed under cork to be made ready for the celebration of life! Below are a couple of things to look for with good sparkling wine.

Colour

Sparkling wine comes in a variety of colours including white, gold and pink. These colours can tell us the grape varieties used and even the winemaking technique. But other than colour it doesn’t give too much else away.

Aroma

When it comes to the aroma the important thing to remember is not to swirl a sparkling wine like you would a still wine. The aromas in a sparkling wine come from the winemaking process and the grapes. These can also be affected by the variety and climate where they are grown and produced. Common aromas include apple, pear and citrus.

Taste

The taste is what we’ve all been waiting for so take your time and enjoy it. Finer bubbles will normally signify how much sophistication the wine has and while the aroma can be enjoyable, sparkling wine comes into its own on the palate. 

Your tastebuds are the key to deciphering whether the wine has a sweet or dry taste. By sipping the wine slowly it will oxygenate in your mouth meaning you benefit fully from the overall experience.

Serving

Most people think that you need to chill sparkling wine as much as possible but in reality, it should be between 8C and 12C. By adding water to an ice bucket you can drop the temperature even quicker. 

Popping the cork might sound great but it’s ideal if the cork is eased out slowly in a twisting motion. When pouring do so on a slight angle and don’t fill the glass up – less than half will allow those great aromas to be captured.

Online Wine Shop

If you would like to try our award-winning Evolution sparkling wine you can purchase it as a case of 6 or 12 bottles, as well as view our entire range of Hencote wine.

New look online wine shop

Whilst our Estate remains closed to the public our online wine shop is still open and today we have launched our new look online wine shop. Here you will be able to purchase all Hencote wines, including our Lifestyle and Estate range as well as our award-winning sparkling Evolution.

We are now offering free delivery on all purchases to SY1, SY2, SY3, SY4, TF1 and TF3 postcodes!

In order to comply with recent government recommendations on social distancing, we will be carrying out contactless delivery. During checkout, please complete the order note section to indicate where you wish for us to deposit your order and how to contact you to indicate delivery e.g. “Please leave my order on the doorstep and ring my mobile to let me know it’s delivered”.

Recently we have expanded our wine list and will soon be adding other wines from around the world to the online shop.

We hope that you enjoy your online wine experience and if you have any questions or need any help with recommendations then you can contact the Hencote team on [email protected]

Coronavirus Update

Dear Guests of Hencote,

On Monday 16th March, the British Government announced an escalation of ‘social distancing’ measures that strongly advised all members of the public to avoid non-essential social contact that included visiting theatres, pubs and restaurants, amongst other venues.

Whilst this advice fell short of officially mandating the closure of all the above venues, we have considered at great length the risks posed by continuing to operate the business to our staff and to our guests. As such, whilst the official advice has not changed, we do not feel that we can conscionably continue to operate in the existing climate without being able to fully guarantee the health and security of everyone at Hencote.

This has not been an easy decision to make, but where the risks exist that our continuing operation could potentially severely impact the health of our staff and guests, we feel this the morally correct decision to make.

As such, we will be closing the Hencote Estate to the public effective immediately from today 19th March until further notice. We apologise to all our guests who have reservations across our Estate for our restaurant, accommodation or wine tours and hope you will understand the concerns that has led us to make this decision.

For the duration of our closure we will have limited access to our contact number, 01743 298444, however should you wish to get in touch please leave us a voicemail message or email us on [email protected]

We hope that you and your loved ones stay safe and well.

Best wishes,

From Everyone at Hencote

Hencote and The Art of The Amphora

Vineyard and winery technology is always evolving, but traditionally the winemaking process has not changed in over 5000 years.

Wine is made when grapes are harvested and pressed, natural yeast transforms the mixture through the process of fermentation into wine which in turn further develops with maturation.

Ancient method

While there are many techniques used in winemaking, at Hencote we have embraced one ancient method which has allowed us to go back to basics in line with our philosophy of less is more.

The use of terracotta clay amphora as a winemaking vessel precedes the oak barrel and in recent times has not been considered in your conventional methods for making and storing wine but at Hencote we recognise the quality attributes from their use for our premium wines. After the grapes have been carefully sorted and processed our wines complete their fermentation in our amphoras.

What is interesting is that the egg shape of the amphora creates natural turbulence which can be worked with to rather gently guide the creation of the end wine.

Cycle of nature

Our view is that amphorae support the approach of understanding and working with the cycle of nature and takes the winemaker back to the original roots of winemaking – there is no need for modern technology.

Currently, the five amphorae we have contain premium Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines now resting in maturation from the 2019 harvest. The wine will eventually be disturbed after ten months in preparation for the rigorous bottling process during the last weeks before harvest in September.

Finally, each amphora must be cleaned, so to ensure that their unique individual character is maintained, they only get a thorough hot water rinse, which is a tough job in itself – just ask Gavin the next time you see him!

If you would like a tour of our winery and finish with a tasting of some of our Estate wines then you can email [email protected] or call 01743 298 444 for more information.

Four great red wines for the colder weather

With the cold weather lingering why not relax in our lounge with a glass of wine – red wine. People often associate red wine with heartier foods such as roasts, chilli, Bolognese or stews. These winter warmers often complement a range of red wines due to their gallant flavours.

While white wine is always an option red wine is more suited to a colder climate. Below are a few red wines that are perfect for drinking in winter.

Pinot Noir

Kicking off the list of winter reds is the Pinot Noir. This elegant wine is a popular choice with wine lovers due to its delicate characteristics of strawberry and raspberry, while others have darker flavours such as plum and dark cherry. Pinot Noir is a dry wine with fine complexity and pairs very well with venison as well as dishes such as mushroom risotto.

Hencote wine list recommendation – Hencote Estate Mark I

Merlot

You couldn’t have a winter red wines list and not include Merlot. The grape can adapt to different climates and has a unique taste; combining black cherries, plums with a subtle hint of vanilla in some instances. Merlot balances perfectly with beef steaks and can also pair nicely with Blue Cheese. Despite being berated in the film Sideways, Merlot it seems is on the rise again.

Wine list recommendation – The Velvet Devil, Charles Smith, Washington, USA

Shiraz

Produced in New World countries such as Australia and South Africa, Shiraz originates in the Rhone, a stylistic wine known for being big and bold. It oozes flavour most notably blueberries and blackcurrants, but can also have distinct notes of chocolate and pepper. When it comes to food, varieties of Shiraz pair well with lamb and pulses including lentils.

Hencote wine list recommendation – Two Hands, McLaren Vale, Australia 2017

Cabernet Sauvignon

Finally, we have the ‘Cab Sav’ – the king of winter red wines. Cabernet Sauvignon offers bold flavours which leave an impactful aftertaste of blackcurrant, cedar and spices. Some wines are fruity while others have a smokier aroma – this all depends on the location and how the wine is made. Cabernet Sauvignon pairs with grilled meats and dishes with big flavours.

Hencote wine list recommendation – Freemark Abbey, Napa Valley, USA 2011

If you would like to know more about our ranges of wines including our recent red, the Mark I, then you can get in touch with the Hencote team here – [email protected] or 01743 298 444

In The Vineyard – February

Shrewsbury and the surrounding areas of Shropshire have suffered over the last few weeks with torrential rain sparking rising floodwaters.

The River Severn has not been this high in 20-years and has already forced some local businesses to close and homes to be flooded.

This week for the team in the vineyard it’s business as normal as the vines are still dormant and are expected to suffer no ill-effects from the floods.

They have continued to work through the deluge of bad weather tending to the young Chardonnay vines that were planted in 2018.

The process involves pruning and tying in order to establish them for their final year before production in 2021. Next week the pruning and tying begins for the mature vines and will take around six weeks in the run-up to Spring.

Inside the winery, Gavin has been disgorging the sparkling wine which begins with the neck of the bottle plunged into a refrigerating solution at – 27°C.

The sediment is then ejected under pressure when the bottle is opened, then recorked along with the muselet (wire hood), with minimum loss of wine and pressure.

The bottles are then cleaned in warm water and stacked ready to be stored, Gavin and his team are disgorging one day a week at 1,010 bottles per day for the next 8 weeks.

We are looking forward to Spring and hopefully a change in the weather bringing with it a little bit of sunshine which, will hopefully put a smile back on the faces of Shropshire residents.

If you would like to know more about the vineyard and to take a tour of the winery with a tasting to finish please get in touch with one of the Hencote team on [email protected] or call 01743 298 444.

February events at Hencote

February is the month when romance blossoms and winter is on the final stretch before spring.

Along with Valentine’s Day, we have two other events planned for wine connoisseurs and foodies everywhere – a wine tasting and a wine dinner.

Wine Tasting

For our next wine tasting, we will be making the short hop across the Channel to our French neighbours sampling four of their finest wines.

February 20th sees Hencote winemaker Gavin Patterson will be on hand to take you through the history of each one, explaining the region and what makes them unique.

The tasting is blind so you won’t know the style of wine or the region it comes from, you’ll have to make your own opinion. If you’ve not been to a blind wine tasting before it is a great chance to understand what to look out for in a great wine including aroma, body and of course taste.

Cost for the event is £25 pp and will include a tasting of all four wines as well as a cheese and charcuterie board to dine on. The tasting starts at 6 pm.

Wine Dinner

For our wine dinner on February 28th our team of chefs has created a menu which is inspired by French classics. During the evening each dish will be paired with a glass of wine that complements the dish and its flavours.

Winemaker Gavin Patterson and Head Chef Paul Downes will be on hand to explain the wine and dish and the reasons for the pairing.

Cost for our French wine dinner is £95 pp and includes five courses with wine pairing.

If you love your food and drink this is an experience to be savoured. For more information about either of these events, you can contact one of the Hencote team on 01743 298 444 or email [email protected]