Norfolk winemaker bottles ‘best vintage ever in UK’s history’

PUBLISHED: 15:09 20 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:48 20 March 2019

Winemaker Lee Dyer of Winbirri Vineyard. He reckons this year's vintage will be the best ever. Pic: Archant.

Winemaker Lee Dyer of Winbirri Vineyard. He reckons this year's vintage will be the best ever. Pic: Archant.

The maker of one of the ‘best white wines in the world’ is bottling what he reckons will be a record vintage for England after last year’s baking hot summer.

Winemaker Lee Dyer at his vineyard. Picture : Archant.Winemaker Lee Dyer at his vineyard. Picture : Archant.

Lee Dyer, of Winbirri vineyard in Surlingham, said the hot British summer last year produced grapes that when harvested were so perfect in size and shape they actually looked fake.

The result is he is forecasting the “best vintage ever in the history of English grape growing”. He said: “I know we haven’t got a long history of producing wine in England but since its resurgence, this is the best we’ve ever seen.

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“It’s possibly going to be a one in 100 vintages which you might never get to see again in a lifetime. The quality of the grape, its flavour and profile was just perfect, when we processed them, they looked like they were fake as usually you get a little bit of scarring but this crop was just perfect.”

Mr Dyer, who says he has invested £1m in his business, has 52,000 vines over 33 acres which he extended in 2017 to triple the production of his award-winning Bacchus which was named the best single varietal white wine by the Decanter World Wine Awards last year. He will produce about 70,000 bottles of wine this year, including the Bacchus, an aromatic dry white with deep flavour, as well as a rose but having done many taste tests, and now bottling, he knows he is on to another winner.

“Purely in the job of research I have been taste testing it, that’s the hardship of my job. I work 80-100 hours a week, seven days a week but it’s not work to me, I just love it,” he said.

He said last year’s summer was perfect for the vines, planted in 2010, which are now going to be producing this year’s wine. Vines need warm and still conditions for more fruit to be produced and then for it to ripen. Because the roots go deep into the soil, they don’t actually need much rain at all as they find their own moisture.

However, despite the good news, Mr Dyer said Brexit and the impact on the exchange rate was having an effect because he needed to buy in machinery and processing parts from Europe as well as the actual bottles.

Mr Dyer was inundated with requests to supply wine and from people wanting to buy his vineyard after the success of his Bacchus and is currently hoping to secure another deal with a major supermarket – but he can’t say any more at this stage.

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