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Sharpham Vineyard
Ashprington, Devon

sharph2.jpg (67926 bytes) If you are in holidaying in the West Country, a visit to Sharpham is worth a detour. The vineyard is part of an agricultural partnership based around Sharpham house, which dates from 1770. As well as vinfying the wines grown on the estate, the winery also makes the highly acclaimed Beenleigh Red, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grown under cloches at Beenleigh Manor, and given the full new oak treatment. It's a really good wine, but I've got mixed feelings about whether it is truly authentic!
There are 14 acres of vineyards, planted on south-facing slopes overlooking the River Dart. It is an idyllic location, and visitors are allowed to take a leisurely stroll through the vines. Sharph1.jpg (79315 bytes) As the pictures show, the damp, changeable English weather means that the vineyards are lush and green even in mid-summer, but this does make producing ripe, healthy grapes a real challenge.
Shar13.jpg (60096 bytes) The vines are trained using the complex Scott Henry trellising system, which includes a series of wires that are pulled tight at various stages to manage the canopy and make sure the grapes are exposed to the sun.

 

Sharph3.jpg (74815 bytes)
shar9.jpg (77888 bytes) The picture on the left was taken during July, that on the right from the same position in the following April, illustrating the change in appearance of the vineyard at different stages during the vine growth.

 

Shar11.jpg (61559 bytes)
Shar12.jpg (58455 bytes) The wines themselves are a little variable. The 1996 Estate Selection is made from Madeleine Angevine, has an attractive, lifted nose, and is crisp and fresh with grapefruity acidity (8.50). The 1996 Dart Valley Reserve is fuller in the mouth, with rich fruit and a touch of residual sugar. It is a blend of Madeleine Angevine and Huxelrebe (5.98). Shar15.jpg (61593 bytes)
The 1996 Barrel Fermented Dry is a varietal Madeleine Angevine that is fermented in new French barriques. As you'd expect, it is quite oaky on the nose with crisp balancing acidity. It is tasty, but perhaps lacks depth of fruit to stand up to the vanillin oak flavour (9.99). Finally, the 1997 Sharpham Red is 100% Dornfelder. It is light red in colour with herbaceous cherry fruit on the palate. It is a light, chillable red, but is rather batting out of its league at 10.  Shar14.jpg (55660 bytes)
You can't expect hand produced wines from low-yielding vines to be cheap, and ultimately this is the problem with wine production in the UK: it is hard to make it a commercial success when the wines are competing a little out of their league in terms of cost.
Overall, I'd recommend a visit to Sharpham: it is a stunning setting, and they are making some interesting wines.

Contact details:

Sharpham Estate
Ashprington
Totnes
Devon TQ9 7UT

Phone: 01803 732203
Fax: 01803 732122

Open March 1 - November 30
Monday to Saturday 10:30-17:30 h