Stanlake Park Vineyards
Producing quality grapes since 1979
There are 4 vineyards at Stanlake Park, spread-out across the 130 acre site and occupying 10% of the land. The names of the vineyards were given many years ago in line with the long history of the estate.
Guests on a tour gets to visit the Stallion Vineyard, whereas the Walled Garden is typically reserved for wedding guests. The Cricket Field is visitable on some non-wedding days, whereas the Ruscombe Vineyard is private as surrounded by the estate’s livestock.
As you enter the gates of the estate, the Stallion Vineyard is to the left where the Siegerrebe vines grow and are used to make our Orange wine. This is a cold climate variety originating in Germany and is low in acidity. These are some of the oldest vines on the estate dating back to 1979 whilst there are also a number of Solaris vines here which were more recently planted in 2020. The Solaris grapes were created in Germany in 1975 and have high acidity with fruity and aromatic aromas.
Walled Garden Vineyard
Behind the Shop and Wine Bar is the beautiful and tranquil 15th Century Walled Garden Vineyard. This is primarily planted with Gewürztraminer vines (we have the oldest vines in the UK) although there are a number of Pinot Noir and recently planted Solaris vines (planted March 2020). Gewürztraminer is an aromatic white grape which is quite floral and blossomy; it makes part of our Regatta blend. Like many of our other varieties it performs really well in cold climates.
Cricket Field Vineyard
Behind our Wedding Barn is the large Cricket Field Vineyard, so called due to a cricket pitch being there prior to the vineyard. Here we grow a number of grape varieties: - Optima, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Dornfelder. Optima is a white grape created in Germany in 1930 when a Riesling was crossed with a Silvaner grape. Optima is usually used in the Regatta blend and is quite a sweet grape. Dornfelder is another common German grape variety and has good acidity and depth of colour. It has the flavours of plum, cherries and is typically oaked and is used in The Reserve and Cricket Grove wines. Pinot Noir grapes are grown all over the world and apart from red wines it is also our grape of choice for our still Rosé and our ever popular Rosé Superior sparkling wine. It has a good aroma of red fruit and is widely used in sparkling wines. Likewise, Chardonnay is grown all over the world and is used in the production of still and sparkling wines.
On the far side of the estate is our largest vineyard, Ruscombe Vineyard. Here we grow Reichensteiner, Schönburger, Pinot Noir, Meunier, Seyval Blanc, Bacchus and Madeleine. Reichensteiner is a German variety with good sugar content, used with other grapes to produce our popular multi-vintage Regatta wine. Schönburger is a pink skinned grape with a delicate floral aroma. Madeleine Angevine originates from France (Loire), has floral characteristics and is very easy drinking. Meunier is a well-known black grape used for sparkling wine; you’ll find it in our Stanlake Brut while our Heritage and Hinton Brut contain Seyval and Pinot Noir. Seyval blanc originated in France and is common in the UK and US; it is dry and crisp, with citrus flavours as well as apple and minerals. Bacchus is common and popular in the UK due to its similarity with Sauvignon Blanc and has intense aromas of flint, peach and gooseberry.
⇒ Book a tour to explore some of our vineyards and winery
Gewürztraminer old vine in the Walled Garden vineyard, planted in late ’70s and one of the oldest vines of their type in the UK
History of our Vineyards
Growing grapes in a cool climate
Winemaking in the UK dates back to the Romans although the wine back then would be very different to what we call wine these days. Grape growing continued long after the Romans left, and the Domesday Book mentions 40 vineyards. At the onset of the First World War, wine making completely ceased in the UK so that much needed food and crops could be produced.
It wasn’t until the 1930’s that growing grapes for wine commenced again and it continued at a slow pace throughout the remainder of the 20th Century. In 1979, the owner of Stanlake Park (Jon Leighton), returned from Australia and planted 500 vines to ascertain the possibility of creating a commercial vineyard in Twyford, Berkshire. Initially, it was known as Thames Valley Vineyard before being renamed Stanlake Park Wine Estate by the estate’s next owner, Peter Dart, in the early 2000’s.
The vineyards were expanded to 10 acres with a number of different trellising systems in operation including a number of variants based on the Smart-Dyson ballerina method. In effect, a mid-height Sylvoz system (originating in Italy) which is ideal for our cool climate giving a perfect balance of quality and yield. This method makes the most of the trellis with both upward and downward shoots.
The challenges of English viticulture
Whilst climate change and global warming are changing winemaking in England, it is also causing more extreme weather events and should not be misrepresented as the reason for the upsurge in English vineyards. We have a marginal climate for viticulture and the average summertime temperature, which is never too high, is the key factor.
There is a significant risk of spring frosts all across the country, typically occurring in April and May which can damage the early season growth and cause considerable crop loss. At Stanlake Park, we had a sharp frost on the 14th May 2020 which resulted in a crop loss of almost 30%.
Soil type is also key to success when growing grapes. Soil drainage is extremely important; clay rich soils have poor natural drainage and vines will not grow well in waterlogged soil and will not establish good root systems without drainage. In 2021 and 2022, the Geology students from Reading University spent some time at Stanlake Park analysing the soil from each vineyard producing a very useful report at the end of their work.
Apart from temperature and soil, other issues facing viticulture in the UK include a number of well-know diseases such as mildew, phomopsis and bunch rots (including botrytis). If you’re lucky enough to avoid the diseases, you still have to contend with birds, wasps and other flies and mites. Unfortunately, grapes are very popular with our estate’s abundant wildlife.
Grape varieties we grow in England
In the UK, 70% of all wine production is sparkling wine due mainly to the climate and almost 80% of all grapes are either Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. At Stanlake Park, only 30% of wines are English sparkling thus still white wine make up the majority of the wines produced based mainly on historical planting. Unlike many English vineyards, Stanlake Park grows a large variety of grapes which account for the numerous wines produced.
The following is a list of the grape varieties we currently grow at Stanlake Park.
• Madeleine Angevine
• Pinot noir
• Seyval blanc
According to the WineGB 2021-2022 Report, and as you can see in the chart, the traditional “Champagne” grapes – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier – account for just over 80% of the grape varieties grown in the UK, largely used for the production of English sparkling wine. Seyval blanc, an alternative to the traditional Champagne grapes, is also a popular choice for fizz production in the UK.
Bacchus is the most popular white variety used for making still wine, although several producers experiment with Orange and sparkling versions of Bacchus – including Stanlake Park.
Percentages of the most common grapes grown in the UK (WineGB 2021-2022 Report)
When harvest time comes...
The most crucial period of the year
Harvesting of the grapes usually occurs between mid-September and early October. It is all done manually and with 5 or 6 members of the team will take approximately 10 days.Obviously this depends on the weather and the yield. During this time, like many wineries, we will also process grapes for other vineyards who don’t have winemaking capability.
Months of hard labour and love has gone into the vines since the last harvest and there is always great anticipation before the first bunches of beautiful ripe grapes are picked.
The white gapes are picked first and processed before the end of the day. The red grapes are left a little longer to ensure maximum ripeness and sugar content. Nico will be fully aware of the quality of the expected harvest having spent weeks in the vineyards during the year as well as being glued to the daily weather forecasts.
It’s a wonderful time of year and one of great celebration. Roll on the harvest.