White Castle vineyard launches ‘first fortified wine’ in Wales

A Welsh vineyard is claiming to have bottled the nation’s first-ever fortified wine.

Robb and Nicola Merchant, co-owners of White Castle vineyard in Monmouthshire, South Wales.

The drink, which has been named 1581, has been aged for four years and is “similar in style to port”, with an ABV of 19%.

“Since we’ve had the vineyard it has always been a dream of ours to create a Welsh fortified wine,” said Robb Merchant, co-owner of White Castle in Monmouthshire.

Merchant said that he was eager to make a Welsh fortified wine for years, but it wasn’t until 2014 that White Castle’s Regent harvest was of a high-enough standard.

“The quantity of grapes harvested in 2014 allowed us to put aside a 225-litre barrel of Regent wine with which to make our Welsh fortified wine,” Robb said. “The result is drink that is light in texture, very fruity, and reflects what we do at White Castle.”

Available as a limited edition, a barrel has now been put away after each harvest and stored at the Three Choirs winery in Newent, which produces White Castle’s wines.

1581 joins White Castle’s range of red, white, rose, and sparkling wine which since the vineyard’s first harvest in 2011 have reaped numerous national wine awards.

The new beverage has close links to the area’s heritage and takes its name – 1581 – from a grade II* listed Tudor barn at the vineyard, which is situated in the village of Llanvetherine near Abergavenny and Monmouth.

Robb and Nicola Merchant — who run White Castle together — worked with local building preservation charity The Village Alive Trust, to restore the building, with funding from Cadw and the Heritage Lottery Fund the Croft Barn.

It has now been transformed into an event space, which Robb and Nicola use for talks and courses on viticulture.

“It is a wonderful building, and it is an integral part of our vineyard, so it was natural that we took the date of its construction for the name of our Welsh fortified wine,” said Robb, who also acts as chairman of the Welsh Vineyards Association.

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