But there’s more!! I love Spain and I liked the idea of spending a good part of my retirement travelling there – why couldn’t the vineyard in Anglesey reflect this? Think of all the things you associate with Spain, why couldn’t I bring a few of those back here? Ceramics, leather products, olive oil, bullfights? Perhaps not the last but I’ve succeeded with the other three. I’ve had amazing travels in Andalucia, found stunning products, each with their own story, and brought them back to Anglesey to sell. Read more about them here….
First vines at Red Wharf Bay Vineyard
Where I wanted to plant
If I couldn’t plant in Spain, why not bring a little of Spain to Anglesey?
The original plan was to plant a vineyard in Andalucia. I was 62 at the time and had just been made redundant from the “day job’ in IT. I still had some consultancy work but in my heart I knew I’d never have (or want) another job which involved turning up somewhere every day to work for someone else. It felt very strange, part joy and part guilt, but that was where I found myself, so let’s get on with something else.
I wasn’t a complete vineyard virgin, though I had been incompetent. Indeed, now I know a bit more about it the scale on my incompetence astonishes me. In 2010, on a small northwest! facing bank my wife wanted taming, on a whim I planted twenty-five Solaris vines, then twenty-five more in each of the following two years. Solaris vines, once they get to three or four years old, should produce enough grapes for a bottle of wine or more per vine. If you visit I will happily explain my incompetence in detail but at this juncture this is sufficiently illustrated by the fact that in the following five years I managed to produce six 75 cl bottles of wine – and I cheated with two of those (I bought extra grapes from Waitrose).
However, things have improved dramatically. The slow progression of the redundancy from possibility to certainty concentrated the mind as to what to do next. The idea of planting a proper vineyard had taken hold but I thought “wouldn’t it be so much easier somewhere with a bit more sun? Like Andalucia!”. I could enjoy my retirement going out to Spain whenever I felt like it to spend time pottering around in the sunshine, tending the land, meeting people and enjoying myself. Then I would come back to the UK with a few bottles of this wonderful wine and turn up at the houses of friends saying “this is from the vineyard in Spain”. I know Andalucia quite well, and I wasn’t thinking rolling hillsides filled with my vines for as far as the eye could see. Just to plant a few hundred and make a bit of wine, though commercially, not just a hobby. There would be a bit of hard work involved on the land, but not too much. And I’d do all myself of course. Why not? I like gardening.
After looking for 15 months I found the right plot of land (a long story) and set about the legal process of buying it, only to then find out that the complexities of The Common Agricultural Policy make it nigh on impossible to cultivate a new vineyard in Andalucia, the rest of Spain and for that matter most of mainland Europe as well (why didn’t anybody tell me at the start?). Determined to continue in one way or another, I looked again at Anglesey, thought “What the heck” and learnt how to grow vines properly in the UK. In spring of 2017 I planted again in our field, still only 400 vines – Solaris and Rondo, varieties adapted to cooler regions – but this time I hope I’m doing a better job. This is the first phase, if it works I’ll plant more. Come and see how I’m getting on!!
And yet more!! – and this is where it gets a little crazy. I couldn’t plant vines in Spain but I thought why not buy somebody else’s grapes there and bring them back to the UK - and then blend them with my own grapes to make this absolutely unique Welsh / Spanish wine? Nobody’s done that before, have they? Another long story – there’s lots of stories. Come and hear a few more, have a look round my fledging vineyard and taste some of my unique wine.
Red Wharf Bay, Anglesey, North Wales