As an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Surrey Hills offers some of South East England’s most stunning and accessible countryside and in recent years has also become the pinnacle of successful British winemaking. With the same geology as the Champagne region in France, the Surrey Hills is a rural enterprise with the very best winemakers now making their mark here.
Albury, an award winning organic vineyard, was formed in 2009 by Nick Wenman when he retired from his career in IT to fulfil his life-long dream by planting his first seeds on the southern slopes of North Downs in the Surrey Hills. “Ever since I was old enough to drink wine I have always dreamt of owning a vineyard. It’s taken me more than 40 years to get there but I’m now lucky enough to have fulﬁlled my dream. Working with a passionate team producing great wine in the beautiful Surrey Hills. What more could I ask for?” Nick explains. The key to his success is his passionate commitment to organic and biodynamic principles combined with a talented team of hardworking people.
Albury is a family-run vineyard, with Nick’s daughter Lucy now fully involved in the business. Lucy shares Nick’s love of Albury and is devoted to creating a friendly, welcoming vineyard experience for all visitors regardless of whether they know a lot, or nothing at all about wine. Alex Valecchi (one of few female vineyard managers in England), is also vital to the vineyard and after achieving a doctorate in Horticulture at Milan University in 1996 Alex then worked in vineyards in Italy and New Zealand, so it’s fairly safe to say Alex knows her stuff.
Managing an organic vineyard in the UK is no mean feat, but Albury have gone one step further and are actually one of few vineyards in the UK to follow biodynamic principles. Biodynamics excludes the use of artificial chemicals and encourages soil fertility and plant health by using compost teas and biodynamic preparations. For example, each winter the team bury cow horns filled with manure on the vineyard. They are then dug up in the spring and the contents sprayed on the vineyard to improve fertility.
Biodynamic practices in the Albury vineyard encourage a natural harmony between the earth, the vine and the cosmos as nature intended, without the need to use systemic chemicals. They believe that this results in a more natural, healthier bio-diverse and sustainable vineyard, producing better quality fruit and ultimately better quality wine.
But don’t just take our word for it. Vineyard tours and tastings are the ideal way to truly get to know Albury and their wines. Tours last between one and a half to two hours with a tour of the vineyard, tasting and insight into the company’s passion for organic viticulture and wine. The tours run from May to September each year, for more information or to buy as a gift visit the website here.
If you prefer your wine paired with cheese, you can partake in one of Albury’s cheese and wine tastings in the cosy vineyard barn. Taste three of Albury’s award-winning sparkling wines, choose a favourite, then enjoy a glass accompanied by a selection of English cheese – this sounds so good to us! You can find out more or book a spot here. Top Tip: Albury recommends allowing 45 minutes for the self-guided tour either before or after a tasting, which we’ve heard is a must if you’ve not been before.
As well as tours and tastings the vineyard also hosts a variety of events from opera, bee keeping demonstrations, to special dining experiences like no other. Find out about any upcoming events here.
If you are planning a trip to the Surrey Hills (or even if you’re not) Albury is a must visit: the welcoming team, delicious wine and ever beautiful lush scenery ensure an unforgettable experience.
Images, John Powell, Great British Wine and Johnathan Blackham