Spotlight on Gwinllan Conwy
It’s Welsh Wine Week! We are excited to be speaking to Colin & Charlotte from Gwinllan Conwy – a vineyard situated just outside of Snowdonia National Park in North Wales.
I first discovered their wines a few years ago – Porthmadog in North Wales is one of my all time favourite places, and pre-lockdown, I loved spending long weekends there!
I was eating in a restaurant in Criccieth when I noticed a Welsh sparkling wine on the wine list – I’ll be honest, I actually didn’t realise North Wales had a climate that could grow grapes well! I assumed the wine would be from South Wales – I was delighted to find it was a local wine! It was absolutely gorgeous – Gwinllan Conwy Pefriog. In fact, I loved it so much, I hastily ditched my plan of driving back from the restaurant, ordered a taxi instead, and poured another glass! (Don't judge me, it was great wine!)
(Image - the photo I took of the wine on the night, I was determined to track it down afterwards so I could buy again!)
Charlotte, Colin – I’m delighted to speak to you about Gwinllan Conwy!
Tell us about you and Gwinllan Conwy!
First planted in 2012, the vineyard has grown each year to over 3 acres. We opened in 2016 and have won more than fifteen medals in national and international competitions. We have exported our wines to Japan and we have presented our wine to the previous Prime Minister at 10 Downing St. We have twice been winners at the North Wales tourism awards.
The main part of our business is about giving our customers a unique experience of a vineyard tour and local produce food and wine pairing. Sadly, this year we have not been able to offer this but are looking forward to welcoming our customers back in August. In the meantime, customers can buy online.
How did you come to own the vineyard?
We wanted our girls, Tillie and Hattie to grow up in the country and bought a farmhouse and small holding near Conwy. We both had a love of wine and thought it would be great to plant a vineyard. To our surprise the farmer selling the property showed us an abandoned vineyard that had been planted ten years earlier. They were strong and had clearly taken well in the Welsh soil. So we inherited around a hundred mature vines which allowed us to learn our trade while our new plantings matured! Talk about ‘it was meant to be’!
Childcare was going to be expensive for the two girls, so Charlotte left her job and went back to her roots as a chef! We decided to conduct tours and offer food. Now we are one of Conwy counties main tourist attractions!
What’s it like growing vines near Snowdonia? Are there any challenges that you wouldn’t find in other wine-making regions in the UK?
We are blessed with a unique scientifically proven micro-climate called the Foehn effect! This means that we have exceptionally mild winters which allow the vines to develop and flower earlier than most places in the UK. The fact that we have sea on the North, West and East sides of the vineyard within two miles tempers the atmosphere and prevents late spring frosts that can devastate the vineyards! The soil is made of shale slate which is well drained and adds a mineral quality into our wines.
However wind is our enemy! High winds a flowering can cause real problems with fruit setting and battering the vines. Fortunately this year has been great and we are looking at the best crop ever!!
How has people’s general awareness of Welsh wine changed over recent years?
The perception of Welsh wine is still a problem! People assume that it rains all the time or it’s too cold etc. That’s why competition success is important as well as getting the industry on board such as yourselves. We are still a tiny sector producing only around 100,000 bottles a year.
Awareness is improving especially as the English wine scene is becoming so popular. Soon there will be six commercial vineyards in North Wales with different varieties and we will become a small but important wine region in our own right!
Tell us about your wines!
We have two whites, a red, a rosé and two sparkling (a white and a rosé). Our wines have won numerous awards - our most award-winning wine is our Solaris.
Which of your wines is your personal favourite and why?
Pefriog. Many believed a sparkling Solaris wouldn’t work but created something unique. Winning a IWC silver was special. The name ‘Pefriog’ is the Welsh word for sparkling and it given us a truly special identity.
What first got you into wine?
I’ve always had a love of wine and twelve years ago we met and it was one of the main things we had in common.
(Image - Gwinllan Conwy's Rondo Welsh Red Wine)
What has been your favourite moment since acquiring the vineyard?
Going to 10 Downing St and presenting Pefriog to the then Prime Minister Theresa May.
Do you have any plans for the future of the vineyard?
We don’t intend to expand the vineyard further but we are looking at providing better outside facilities for our customers such as outside dining and picnic areas.
How has lockdown affected you?
We had to completely shut! Our main source of revenue dried up as we were unable to conduct tours. We threw everything into online sales and our gifts of hampers and gift boxes etc. skyrocketed as families could not visit and wanted something different to give to loved ones.
Going forward our tours will restart but we now have a much stronger retail sales stream through the online shop.
Colin, Charlotte, thank you so much for speaking to us! We hope Welsh Wine Week can help to raise the profile of Welsh wines, and wish you good luck for the re-starting of your vineyard tours!