UP UNTIL recently Monmouthshire was not a county you would associate with fine wine production.
But Ancre Hill Estate’s 2008 Sparkling Wine has seen off stiff competition from French and Italian rivals at an international competition.
News of the award has spread fast, with owner Richard Morris, 60, reporting a “flurry of orders” into the company’s base in Monmouth.
The award-winning 3,000 bottles, at £22 each, are sold out, the last remaining few exported to places like Italy, Switzerland and Norway.
British department store Fortnum and Mason, recognised internationally for its high-quality goods, has also snapped up the wine.
Described as ‘aged, clean and fresh, with a luxurious mouth feel and delicate bubbles’ by the competition’s judges in a blind tasting at Italian international sparkling wine challenge, Bollicine del Mondo, it beat the runner-up Champagne de Saint Gall by two points to take the title, in a field of 200 entries.
Its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes are grown at the family’s bio-dynamic vineyard, one of just a handful in the UK, before being transported to the Three Choirs Winery, Gloucestershire.
There they are turned into the finished product by Mr Morris’ son David, 28, who has a degree in Viticulture and Oenology– wine making. The recent success is not the first for the vineyard.
In 2010 the Morris family scooped a silver medal in the Decanter World Wine Awards and a bronze at the International Wine and Spirit Competition.
All the wine is chemical free and spends up to 12 months fermenting in oak barrels, with an average 15,000 bottles produced per year.
With the creation of their own winery, due to be built in the spring, they hope production can be upped by an extra 10,000 bottles.
For now, Mr Morris has plenty to keep him busy, with orders and trips around the world.
“We have sold out of the 2008 wine this week, it’s just gone beserk,” he said.
“The organisers have invited us to a gala dinner in Verona at the end of January and we’re going to Argentina soon to the visit the vineyards.”
Mr Morris will be hoping the sunshine follows him back from the trip so his grapes can flourish.
The most recent harvest was halved because of the soggy conditions.
“All we need is a nice English summer!” he said.