Come summertime, Astley Vineyard will release just four thousand bottles of their 2020 vintage. It’s a figure down drastically from ten thousand two years prior, a result of a two night freeze in May last year that killed growth and depleted much of the UK's grapes. And yet, despite the reduced numbers, winemaker Chris Haywood is optimistic. 2020 is shaping up to be a great vintage for English wine; possibly on par with, or even better than the golden vintage of 2018, and maybe the best we've ever seen on these shores.
The story of Astley Vineyard merits pouring a glass of wine and savouring. Fifty years ago a retired banker purchased the land in rural Worcestershire and set out to build a party house – complete with outdoor pool and tennis courts – to entertain at. Rather than purchase a constant flow of wine he researched what grapes would grow best in the local conditions, before planting the vines with a view to creating his own source of booze. And with those first vines of the Kerner grape variety in 1971 Astley vineyards was born. Fast forward to 1993 and the property was taken over by English wine legend Jonty Daniels, who took a more professional approach to the land with (presumably) no outdoor raves, and laid the foundations for the Haywood family to drive the vineyard on in the summer of 2017. A year later they bottled their first vintage at the winery and haven't looked back since. If you're lucky you'll find their wine listed at restaurants such as Ynyshir, Harborne Kitchen, Hampton Manor, Land, and Craft. I use the word lucky very specifically given that most have sold out in their entirety.