Brickhouse Vineyard is one of the newest grapes on the vine – as the English Wine movement grows, we are very lucky here in Devon to be surrounded by a high concentration of vineyards for the area.
Situated between the sunny slopes of Haldon Hill and the River Exe Estuary, this idyllic location combined with Devon red soil provides a unique microclimate in which the grapes thrive.
I had seen Brickhouse Vineyard appear on my social feeds, and what really caught my eye was the style of the building. I was born and raised into my early teens in Cape Town, South Africa, where roundhouses or ‘rondavels’ were a common site on our holidays and adventures; the earthy buildings ooze a simplicity that is beautiful in my eyes. In adulthood, they now make my heart sing and are the perfect types of venues for an honest celebration or event.
Husband and wife owners, Joanna and Matt moved from the big smoke down to Devon in 2015, as many do, for a change of pace and a more suitable environment to bring up a family. They certainly haven’t gone for the quiet life though. Building and renovating, tending to the existing vines, starting a business, as well as Joanna educating herself through WSET wine courses and Matt studying vineyard maintenance.
Joanna says: In 2015 we could see the potential in the Grade II* listed house, one of the very first houses in Devon to be built from handmade bricks, the threshing barn with the attached Round House, or horse gin, and the vineyard. After nearly three years, the Round House renovation is complete and the vines are producing around 1000 bottles of wine a year.
All whilst being parents to two young girls; but parenthood and passion drive you. And Joanna and Matt have certainly driven this business forward in a short space of time, holding small corporate events, wine tastings, and weddings – boutique celebrations or elopements for two. They have featured in bridal magazines and have produced a bumper 2018 vintage thanks to the wonderful summer we experienced.
I was delighted to be invited along to their inaugural cheese and wine tasting evening. An evening of tasting cool climate wines, whilst learning about food pairing with not only cheese, but charcuterie and seafood as well. It was co-hosted by the lovely Rebecca Mitchell who Joanna was taught by on one of her WSET courses and they have a tangible admiration and respect for each other, through the love of wine. Rebecca is a DipWSET CMS Certified Sommelier and WSET Wine Educator based in Devon – well known with an excellent CV and client list from small eateries to Michelin starred manors who engage her services for advice on their wine offering.
It was sadly already dark outside so I was unable to see the far reaching views, and vines but the glow from the building was wonderful. The room had an ethereal warmth to it, wonderful wood flooring, bare brick, earthy wooden tables with touches of colour brought in by the food and wine. A perfect palette to show off the goods – I imagine this has the same effect for weddings and other celebrations.
I was lucky enough to have the pleasure and company of some of Joanna’s local friends and supporters at my table – they had even helped with the harvest, and rallied round when they needed it. There was a great atmosphere at our table, all the tables in fact.
Rebecca says “Cool Climate sites offer pure varietal expression, exquisite aromas and uplifting acidity which give wines balance, freshness and restrained alcohol.
These aromatic wines are sourced from Cool Climate countries with fewer sunshine hours and cooler temperatures such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, England, Canada and New Zealand. But climate can also be affected by latitude, altitude and proximity to bodies of water. Cooler sites can be found along the coastal strips of warmer countries like Chile, or in high altitude locations such as the foothills of the Andes in Argentina, or in mountainous regions such as the Alto-Adige of Italy.
These delightful Cool Climate wines are a welcome alternative to the big, powerful, high alcohol wines from hotter climate regions such as Australia and South Africa.”
Between Joanna and Rebecca, wines were introduced, described, sniffed, swirled, sipped, gargled and swallowed with enthusiasm (if you are the nominated driver, spitoons are provided). Information sheets were supplied informing us of all the wines and accompanying food items and their origin. It was wonderful to see such support for local produce to help show off both Brickhouse Vineyard’s own wines, and other cool climate wines from further afield. The pairings were mainly with specific cheeses but then we were told what else it would be partnered well with too.
We enjoyed nibbling on:
- bread from Dartington-based The Almond Thief – sourdough, rye and wholemeal
- charcuterie from Topsham’s Good Game – chorizo, Tuscan salami and coppa
- fish and shellfish from Exeter’s Fishes – prawns, smoked salmon and white crab meat. Rebecca also made a wonderful pate from the brown crab meat and gin!
Tastings were generous and included White, Rose and Reds:
- Sauvignon Blanc by Brickhouse Vineyard 2015 – fresh green, passionfruit gooseberry. Paired with Cornish Yarg, which matched the wines palate of saline from the soil.
- 2017 German Reisling Halbtrocken (Half Dry) with Sharpham Elmhirst (Devon). The cheese was creamy, and moussy.
- Regent Rose by Brickhouse 2016. Lovely cranberry colour, summer fruit flavours and a hint of grapefruit and paired with Vulscombe Goats Cheese – which was sour and piquant.
- Pinot Gris Rose by Saint Claire Vineyard NZ 2017. It had a salmon colour, and tasted of strawberries and cream. Paired with a chalky Cricket St Thomas brie from Somerset
- Pinot Noir by Tramin Alto Adige (Italy) 2016, grown high up in the dolomites as it is cooler, stored in old barrels which give it a subtle smoke. Paired with Cornish Blue.
- Cabernet Franc (60%) – Carmenere (40%) by Oveja Negra, Chile 2017. This wine had a herbal lift of mint and eucalyptus paired with Quickes mature cheddar, aged 12-18 months, with wonderful crunchy crystals.
It was a really informative, communal-dining style event. Tasting, sharing, chatting, nibbling – it was a really great evening with warmth and generosity in the offering and from the hosts. It’s obvious Joanna is not in this just for the business and bank rewards; she exudes passion about wine, food pairings, people, their beautiful property and is happy sharing it and their story with others.
I would highly recommend attending an event at Brickhouse Vineyard, and share in Joanna and Matt’s dream. From the big smoke to the life on the vine; I wish them plenty of luck, but to be honest they don’t need it. This is a result of vision and sheer hard work, and they deserve the recognition, interest and momentum they are gathering. I’ll drink to that. Cin Cin!
P.S. Definitely nominate a driver, or club together for a taxi, it’ll be worthit!
Wedding, Corporate and Event Venue
Mamhead, near Exeter, EX6 8HP (for sat nav/google maps use EX6 8GZ)
Rebecca Mitchell DipWSET
*I was offered a complimentary ticket to attend this event at Brickhouse Vineyard; this does not affect my views or opinion.