On a sunny Friday morning, Willow and I set off to Oxfordshire for Chiltern Valley’s Winery Tour and Wine Tasting Experience! We were very excited as neither one of us had completed a tour and tasting experience before, and knew little about wine - other than that we liked to drink it!
Upon arrival, we drove down many country lanes with the trees creating a canopy over our car as they entwined above us. We were definitely in the countryside, and it was simply beautiful. We passed many gorgeous views of the Downs until we reached the Chiltern Valley Winery and Brewery sign, which was rustic and full of character. Opposite was an open plan car park where we parked with ease and walked up to the farm buildings. My immediate thought was how beautiful this destination would be for weddings, and sure enough they were decorating one of their buildings in preparation for one. Oak dressed in twinkling lights guided your eyes up towards the ceiling. We headed up towards the cellar shop, which was the meeting point for the tour.
Steve was our tour guide for the day, and he explained the plan of action which consisted of a 45-minute tour of the vineyard, brewery and winery, then 45 minutes of tasting the delicious wines, ales and liquors that are made onsite. Firstly, we learnt some of the history behind Chiltern, such as the first harvest being in 1984! Steve pointed out the Royal Warrant that has been awarded to Chiltern for having a member of the royal family continually buy one of their products. ‘Who is this royalty?’ I hear you ask. Only the Queen’s husband, Prince Phillip, who has been drinking a Chiltern Ale for over five years, earning it the nickname the Liquor of Life, due to the Prince being the impressive age of 97.
After learning lots about the family-owned establishment, it was time to learn how the popular wines and ales were created! We walked out onto the breath-taking vineyard, where lots of vines were in their lines. The last of the grapes delicately hung as the season drew to a close. I was very interested to learn that the vines live for 30 or 40 years in England, but in the hotter countries such as Greece can live until 80! Our tour peers asked a lot of insightful questions, one being are the vines okay throughout the winter months? This is when we learnt that vines are dormant throughout the winter months, and then come back to life in April.
After taking lots of pictures of the very picturesque location, we moved onto where fermentation takes place and the bottling station. As Chiltern make wine and beer, it was very informative to learn that wine takes 8 - 10 weeks for fermentation to take place, in contrast to beer which takes 1 - 2 weeks. We were given our own personal demonstration of the production, capping and labelling process. It was fascinating to watch how the award-winning products were created. We were told that even though there are technological devices used throughout the brewery, handcraftsmanship is still very much valued and used.
Next Steve led us through to the tasting room, which was full of character! Chairs were placed all around the room, and a bar in the corner where lots of wines and ales were waiting our judgement. From a Dry White, to an English Sparkling Rose, to the only red wine created at the winery: Pinot Noir. We had a brilliant time learning how to taste the wine in a way that allows you to appreciate all the flavours. Steve handed round a piece of paper with a list of everything we were going to taste. We used this to score each drink, and it was a great reference for when we went to the Cellar shop after the tastings. This is where we had the opportunity to buy Chiltern’s products at a discounted price! My parents trusted me to choose some wines that I liked to bring home for them, so I chose the Dry White and the Pinot Noir, as these were my personal favourites.
The Independent Brewery and Winery Tour was excellent and I would highly recommend it for wine and ale lovers. It would also suit people who want to learn more about the process behind making the drinks, or would like a classy, wonderfully British day out. Thank you to Chiltern Valley Winery and Brewery for inviting us!