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Rothley Wine Estate: well worth a visit

The vineyard is on a lovely site only 15-minutes drive from Barrow and is easy to find as it’s immediately after Green King’s Rothley Court Hotel, if you’re driving up Westfield Lane or just after Rothley Gold Club if you’re coming down the hill. You can’t see the vines from the road as they are grown in what once was pasture, grazed by horses, to the rear of the large, low, 1970s house clearly numbered 43. But you can’t just ring the bell and walk in; you have to go on-line to book a tour or join a wine-tasting group. I’d do it though. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip and can confidently recommend it. June 2017 prices were £6.00 for the tour, no wine-tasting, or £12 a group-tour, 8 people, with wine-tasting. They aren’t daily so you need to book and prices may change.

Your excellent guide is Liz Robson, the vineyard’s owner, and if you’re lucky Mabel too: her youthfully crazy pointer. There are over 1,000 vines arranged in long rows on the site and all clearly marked. Liz explains the characteristics of each vine as you pass so that you learn, for example, that grapes from the Orion vines form the base for their white sparkling wine because they are disease resistant, sturdy and reliable. Orion is a grand old gent of a wine! As a contrast the vine Solaris is like an unruly nephew – a much younger, less reliable member of the white grape family, but grown for its tolerance of northern climes. Together with Siegrebbe , a well-established hardy perfumed grape , Solaris forms half of ‘King Richard’ - the vineyard’s dry white wine. Liz has a love of history which comes out in many ways including two impressive ‘medieval ’ arches, see pic, and in the names of her wines.

Her expertise is passed on to visitors, quite effortlessly and in a most entertaining way, as you walk along the grassy paths between the vines. In early summer all the tiny grapes are green so you definitely appreciate someone telling you what they’ll become. You certainly can’t tell that Pinot Noir Precois, Regent and Rondo will eventually turn purple and end up in ‘King Henry’ the vineyard’s red. One variety, Madeline Angevine, is a grown just to provide bottles and bottles of white for the volunteers. Isn’t that great? The vineyard is heavily dependent on free labour and uses it frequently for pruning and tucking-down in winter and harvesting and pressing in the autumn. Volunteers are often friends, or people with a little time on their hands who enjoy working in a vineyard for a bottle of wine at the end of the day. Ages range from late-teens to the over-sixties and you too, Barrow Voice reader, would be welcome only bear in mind a full day’s work outside in a vineyard is tiring. Men with large feet are particularly welcome when it comes to crushing the grapes in September!

But back to the vineyard. It’s on a south facing slope at the base of which runs Rothley Brook and here you can find the vineyard’s small jetty. It’s a lovely spot with kingfishers nesting nearby hence the original name ‘Kingfishers’ Pool Vineyard’. Sadly it had to change as there was a hot-tub manufacturer of the same name and it caused confusion…

From the jetty you walk back up the slope to where the wine-tasting takes place: outside around a garden-table in good weather, inside in a conservatory in bad. From here you progress to the front of the house where the grapes are pressed, the liquid processed and the wine blended. I have far too little space to go into the complex chemistry of it all but rest assured you learn a lot. If you are at all interested in wine you’ll love visiting the Rothley Wine Estate. There is disabled access too.

For more information, or to make a booking, go to www.rothleywines.com or ring 0116 237 5168

Gaynor Barton