Chatting to Sam Lindo, winemaker at the amazing Camel Valley
Main image: Bob & Sam Lindo, winemakers; father and son.
There’s something about wine; its social charm, perhaps. But the people I’ve met and spoken to so far are incredibly friendly and welcoming and English star Camel Valley winemaker Sam Lindo was no different. Showing real passion and confidence for the growing industry of wine in the UK as we chatted and walked around the stunning Camel Valley vineyards in north Cornwall, Sam’s wines are world class.
I was visiting to write up a piece on ‘Discovering English Wine’ for Julien Miquel’s site, Social Vignerons. Originally it was going to be a report on English wine, anchored in my visit to Camel Valley, but I was overturned by just how stunning the wine Sam produces is. Have a read of my guest post over there if you’d like to know more about Sam’s wonderful wines.
Sam and his father, Bob Lindo, have grown the Camel Valley estate into one of England’s best wine producers since Bob planted the first vines back in 1989, bottling the first vintage three years later in 1992. The pair have won many awards for their wine and it’s easy to see why. England’s unique climate makes for some very interesting wine making, and Sam asserts each vintage isn’t about “getting better”, but producing great wines year in, year out, that are simply different.
Choosing to crush the grapes, Camel Valley wines benefit from juicy and very fruity flavour. Under ripe harvests preserve some of the deliciously refreshing acidity in their delicate sparkling wines, while creating a rosé Pinot Noir with subtle red berry aromas and fab acidity. Their flagship white, the 2013 Bacchus, shares the zesty attraction of the world’s best Sauvignon Blancs.
The secret of English wine? Sam compares the country’s produce to that of Bordeaux, in the sense it can produce some very interesting, palette-training wines.
“The big wines with big flavour, like Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, are great but you drink a lot of them and it can ruin them forever,” he tells me. “Bordeaux, and here in England, you get wines that change, have more subtle notes in the mouthfeel, which makes tasting them much more interesting.”
England’s not just supplying England either. Camel Valley struck a deal with a big Japanese company some years ago after sending them samples of their wine. To Sam’s surprise, the company followed up with an initial order of around 12,000 bottles, and today Camel Valley ships its produce all around the world.
It’s testament to just how great these wines are. I’ve personally never tried anything like them. While their White Pinot Noir 2010 (BFW Best Wine 2014/BFWR 93%) and “Cornwall” Pinot Noir Rosé Brut 2012 may stand out as world-class, there wasn’t a single wine I tried I didn’t enjoy immensely. Even their red, which surprised me for the English climate.
Sam explained the best way to make English red wine was in a similar way to some of the cooler climate wine producers from around the world: serve the red slightly chilled and enjoy both ripe cherry and bramble flavour, while also preserving that trademark acidity.
In Camel Valley’s “Red”, a wine made from England’s Rondo grape variety, you immediately see the beautiful ruby ink colour that seduces you to try it. The wine was medium-bodied, very fruity, balanced pleasantly with a subtle acidity; the acidity might have been sour if it were warm, but outside on a cool day and it was actually quite charming.
While winemaking isn’t without its difficulties, Sam is confident they’ve not had a bad year yet. Sure, there’s a variation of yield, but the English wine trade is only growing and competitiveness can only be healthy.
“I just roll with the punches,” Sam smiles.
Check out Camel Valley’s Official website and my “Discovering the Best of English Wine: Camel Valley” on SocialVignerons.com; I’ve also uploaded wine tasting notes on Camel Valley’s range (Camel Valley White Pinot Noir 2010, Camel Valley Chardonnay Brut 2009, Camel Valley “Cornwall” Brut 2012, Camel Valley “Cornwall” Pinot Noir Rosé Brut 2012, Camel Valley Bacchus 2013, Camel Valley Rosé 2013 (Notes coming soon), and Camel Valley Red 2013).