My Devon Wine Mission – by Lauren Heath


Why am I on a Devon Wine Mission?

As a South African born, Cape Town to be precise, visiting vineyards was always part of my culture – of course being a child I couldn’t indulge, although a bit like the French, children were allowed the occasional taste so as not to see it as a forbidden fruit (pardon the pun) but instead, to respect it. Many venues also produced fantastic sparkling grape juices which us kids got to enjoy. The vineyards tended to be larger scale and very generous with their wine tastings and offering so I have many fond memories of sitting alfresco and being served from the cellar door with my parents, their friends and children and so on. Parents walking away with a good haul of wine to enjoy later on with a braai (South African for bbq), or to take to the many gatherings we had at other people’s houses, as there was no such thing as a pub really in our culture, mainly restaurants who also only charged a small corkage for BYO.

Having moved to the UK in the late 90s as a teenager, I have since been back a few times to visit family, including vineyard visits during my stay. South African wines tend to be very fruity or oak aged and this certainly has never pleased me personally, except for the odd gem I found along the way.

My palate has matured in the wine department over the last few years, (I recall very early days of Asti and shudder…) especially since blogging as I have been exposed to many more tasting opportunities thanks to the variety of food and drink events in our lovely county – for example wine and cheese tasting at Brickhouse Vineyard.

Brickhousde vineyard wine tasting
Wine and Cheese Tasting at Brickhouse VIneyard

Local food and produce has been at the forefront for me for nearly 15 years now; our last home was Wiltshire where I landed after the end of my previous life in hospitality. I remember us having a very foodie weekend in Devon and Cornwall in 2009, using the Food Mag food map to find places to visit on our road trip, whilst enjoying a stay at Rick Stein The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow. The interactive online map was one of the only directories of its kind on the internet at the time. It was back then we discovered Darts Farm and Greendale Farm Shop, plus other little hidden gems along the Devon and Cornwall lanes.

I recall, three years later, speaking to a food stall owner in Winchester, finding out they were from Devon and had just moved to Wiltshire. We informed them that we were in fact doing the opposite, moving from Wiltshire to Devon for the food culture, amongst other things (landscape and sea of course), and they couldn’t believe it – ‘there’s no food culture there, that’s why we have moved closer to London’. Well we have never looked back.

With regards to wine and vineyards, I must admit that only just in the last couple of years, have I started to realise how many vineyards we have. I do prefer a pretty simple, crisp white wine in general – normally pinot grigio as that’s what I have drank for the last couple of years – so I don’t necessarily want to pay a lot for something fruity and complex that I won’t enjoy and therefore have continued to purchase to supermarket offerings until recently.

Grape Harvest at Pebblebed Vineyard

But having helped with a few vineyard harvests now, tried some Devon Wine long the way, social media bringing more vineyards to my attention, plus the hospitality judging I do for Taste of the West and Food & Drink Devon, I have started looking closer at wine lists and wanting to try local wines but have been unable to in most places – why are they not selling a Devon wine? They are selling a Devon wine but only by the bottle and not by the glass. Why can’t people try it by the glass? All these questions.

froginwell vineyard wine
Enjoying their own sparkling at a Froginwell Vineyard event

So now I have a little bee in my bonnet and am on a mini-mission: to try more Devon wine myself, to help raise the profile of Devon wine, to share with you all the vineyards we have in the region so you can visit them in person or online, and support them and try what is right here on our doorsteps. Maybe more restaurants will stock at least one local Devon wine if customers ask often enough? Or local farm shops will stock more choices too.

Dalwood Vineyard paired lovely with seafood

In restaurants, once some form of normality resumes, I believe customers would be willing to try these by the glass rather than committing to a bottle in the first instance. Venues introduce us to and educate us about local produce, so why not wine? Yes some wines are more expensive than supermarket offerings, or foreign wine you can buy online, but most people will pay a bit more for fantastic Devon food produce, so why not Devon wine?

A glass of Huxbear whilst relaxing in the bath!

We know that behind smaller businesses, is an incredible amount of hard work and not the buying power or processes of large companies. I would say one ‘positive’ that has come from the recent COVID restrictions is these vineyards have upped their offering by delivering locally and nationally and really increasing their social media presence and visibility – hence I found out about a few more names I hadn’t known about before.

Lily Farm wines cushion
Lily Farm White and Rosé

Another great outcome was the recent and very successful virtual #TheBigEnglishWineGoodFriday which achieved 13 million impressions over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.

Wine GB are now holding #EnglishWineNight virtual events covering a particular region, every Friday night on Twitter – and Friday 29th May will include Devon – to find out more and get talking online about #DevonWine, visit Wine GB’s page here. Also why not join in a whole week of celebrating Devon Wine during #EnglishWineWeek which has been moved from May and will now be from Saturday 20th June – Sunday 28th June 2020. 

So first of all, in a series of wine blogs I’m planning, is a map of Devon vineyards which will be released very soon! Look out for the blog post with this image below – I am at 17 and counting! (*Update! We’re at 21 and the map and directory can be found here).

Devon Wine Vineyard Map Directory Map - blog banner
Look out for our upcoming Devon vineyard map & directory

Also keep an eye out for my upcoming Devon Wine blog posts featuring a different vineyard each time – I will link each blog post back to the directory page to enhance the available information.

Devon Wine features coming soon…

I am certainly no wine expert; but what I am is the normal consumer, inquisitive about what’s on our doorstep and am of the mindset that if what’s so close by is of a really high standard (award winning in many cases), then we shouldn’t ignore it. Even if you just buy a bottle here and there, and drink enjoy a glass of an evening, there’s no need to rush good wine so spread it out to make it last – remember to buy a bottle stop!

I hope you enjoy what’s to come, I know I am enjoying trying new wines – all in the name of research of course…. cheers!

Lauren x

lauren-heath-dining-devon
Enjoying some English Sparkling at The Pig Hotel, Combe

Don’t forget to use the hashtags:

#DevonWine

#EnglishWine

#EnglishWineMovement 

Dates for your diary:

#EnglishWineNight : 29th May 7pm onwards

#EnglishWineWeek : 20th – 28th June

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