A RETIRED nurse living in the Monmouthshire countryside has beaten wine legends from across Europe to win a top award for her “deliciously fresh” pinot noir.

Nicola Merchant, 58, always dreamed of making her own wine while working shifts as a dedicated nurse.

She decided to take the plunge with her former postal worker husband Robb, 59, and bought a field next to their smallholding.

The couple planted 4,000 vines and set up White Castle Vineyard in Llanvetherine near Abergavenny, 12 years ago.


They have now expanded to 7,000 vines producing 10,000 bottles a year in the rolling countryside over seven acres.

Mr Merchant said it had been his “wife’s dream” to establish the business - and the pair have now won gold for their pinot noir reserve 2018.

The red wine costs £25.50 a bottle and has become the first Welsh vintage to win a gold medal in the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA).

Mr Merchant said: “This is the biggest prize we have ever won.

“This is the first time we have entered the Decanter awards. It is judged blind so, for us, this win really underpins what we have been striving to do in terms of quality.”

Sarah Jane Evans, co-chair of DWWA, said the wine was “deliciously fresh.”

She said: “It has got a lovely cherry red fruit character. It’s a really elegant, fresh wine. It’s delicious and the fact it comes from Wales is a bonus.

“We’re used to the UK making white wines but what is interesting is they have made a red wine, which people have always said with the UK climate was impossible."

Judges tasted more than 18,000 wines from 56 countries and awarded just 635 gold medals.

Mr and Mrs Merchant now want to expand their vineyard and are encouraging wine lovers to try Welsh products.

Mr Merchant added: “Try it. Go and visit the vineyards and taste the wines because you’ll taste some exceptional wines.”