Obscure vines grow surprisingly far north!

On a quick trip to the UK to surprise my mum, she turned the tables by surprising me with a visit to a winery – in Yorkshire!


As a wine buyer and promoter, I’m always keen to try find hidden gems and have been a big fan of English Sparkling Wine from the south of England for years, but even I wasn’t expecting still wines from the north of England to show so much potential.

Champagne’s famous Kimmeridgian limestone soils are part of a ‘chalk seam’ that extends under the channel to large areas of southern England but until recently I didn’t know that this desirable soil stretches as far north as the Humber and Yorkshire.

This geology might not have been enough for a vine growing success story, but as temperatures rise in northern Europe the grapes are ripening better and winemakers with an eye to the future are planting more rows now to reap the rewards of mature root systems.


In a tiny hamlet near Driffield, we visited Laurel Vines to tour the vineyard and cellar, then sat down for a wine tasting.

As well as classics like Chardonnay and Pinot Nero, the vineyard is growing PiWi grapes (disease resistant cross-breeds) such as Solaris. I know this obscure vine well, as I’ve been working with an artisanal Italian winery for many years to import Solaris wines, so I was delighted to see it thriving in my home country. This vine, along with other PiWi varieties such as Rondo, are chosen for their hardy character and adaptability to cooler climates! They have also just planted Souvignier Gris, which is another PiWi I bring in from Italy, but that still needs a few years to put down roots and means a longer wait to taste the results.

In the wine flight available this summer, we tasted a white from 100% Madeline Angevine (racy acidity as expected, with surprising roundness) and then a rose and a red, that were both blends of Pinot and Rondo. The red reminded me of a mountain wine or even a youthful Bardolino or Valpolicella (the tannins coming from the thick-skinned Rondo grape).


As the record-breaking heatwave threatens across the UK it’s an interesting time to discuss climate change, vineyard locations, grape variety choices and the future of winemaking!