Grapes Ripen, Are Harvested, and Made Into Wine

by | Feb 1, 2022 | Cellar Chat

Grapes ripen, are harvested, and made into wine. Then comes the awkward part, how to sell the stuff? This exercise is compounded by ever-increasing competition in the market place so how does one manage to elevate one’s product to the required visibility? Not easy.

The best method I ever came across was thanks to the ingenuity of Michael Trull, one-time owner of La Bri vineyards. Michael will be remembered for three things. He made South Africa’s first wood matured white blend (Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon) thereby promoting both La Bri and Franschhoek. He established the Vignerons de Franschhoek and also a restaurant called ‘The 1688’ in honour of the French Huguenots who settled here. The restaurant was later to be re-named ‘Le Quartier Francais’.

Michael was eventually head-hunted to help establish the largest commercial vineyard in England. Denbies Wine Estate is situated in Surrey near the town of Dorking. Covering a huge (for England) 265 acres or 120 hectares, Denbies looks very French with vineyards climbing up slopes towards heavily wooded hilltops. To suit the climate Teutonic varieties including Muller-Thurgau and Dornfelder were planted and a German winemaker was employed. While waiting for the vines to produce a harvestable vintage Michael discovered a number of derelict labourers’ cottages amongst the wooded hilltops. He also discovered an equally derelict Chapel.

As Denbies’ maiden vintage neared the grapes ripened, were harvested and now had to be sold. He obtained permission to access the Chapel and on a great day, he rang the Chapel Bell to let all and sundry know that Denbies wines were now available. Not only did this advertise his wines to the world but the good folk of Dorking and surrounds heard a sound last heard way back in 1941! To me, this was masterly mind-catching at its best.

I have visited Denbies on a number of occasions and with the passing years and maturing vines, they now produce the best selling English wine in England. Denbies’ ‘Surrey Gold’, a blend of Muller-Thurgau, Ortega and Bacchus, is a white wine that we would call off-dry with herbal and elderflower characteristics. Michael is no longer there but his legacy remains and he is well remembered by the staff.

We care little about where the hops come from that make our beer. Wine of course is a different story and we all know that much has been written about grapes and vineyards. So, as we navigate our way into 2022, how about a little wine education? Why not go to ‘‘ and meet Andrew Sleath. Like David Attenborough, Andrew is an excellent communicator and will lead you through the mysteries of the world of Wine in everyday English. Best of all, it’s free.