Winbirri  Winbirri vineyards, Bramerton Road, Surlingham, Norwich, NR14 7DE

First impressions?  It’s very slick!

Smart branding, the pavilion bar and wine garden – Winbirri, from the Anglo Saxon Win (wine) Birri (grape), is certainly out to make an impression – and this they did when they made history in 2017 by winning the Best Single Varietal White Wine in the World with their Bacchus at the prestigious Decanter Awards. 

The experience

Our tickets cost £27.50 for a 3 hour tour and tasting. Many people choose to extend the day with a food platter or drink (as we did) in the pretty wine garden area.

We started by walking around one of the first vine planted fields and owner/manager Lee Dyer explained how they’d started out and are evolving.  There are countless choices in winemaking. At Winbirri the vine planting layout is designed on computer software to ensure precise spacings; however they choose not to mechanise the management of the vines and still hand prune and handpick grapes – even though this is a much slower process – because they believe it contributes to a better-quality end product. 

Lee then took us to the wine processing area and showed us the grape crusher and fermentation vats.  He spoke about their policy of minimal intervention in winemaking and the reason their wines are suitable for vegetarians (because they allow the wine to stabilize and clear naturally rather than adding animal-based finings to speeden the process).    

The tasting took a couple of hours and the servings are generous!  We tasted 5 wines in total – two sparkling: the Vintage Reserve and Rosé Brut, two whites: Solaris and Bacchus and a red wine called Signature.

Lee is a good presenter and his passion shines through.  He explains complex processes simply (such as the traditional method of making sparkling wine) and helps people to understand why the wine tastes the way it does by looking for specific aromas and flavours. 

It is an excellent tasting – and with 31 people quaffing wine samples the noise levels rose and it was clear everyone was having a good time.

Winbirri wine is only available by the case or half case on the website and although individual bottles can be purchased at various outlets including Waitrose, the advantage of purchasing direct from the vineyard is that you can pick and mix, plus they offer a 5% discount if you buy 6. 

Why you should visit

It’s a great overview of the winegrowing and winemaking process rounded off nicely with some insights into wine tasting.  Although it was a large group (31 but there can be up to 40) it was well organised and easy to hear Lee speak.

New learning fact

Handpicking, rather than machine picking, ensures the grapes remain intact thus reducing the opportunity for oxidation to cause the grapes to deteriorate.

Recommended wines to try

Vintage Reserve 2015: I love this traditionally made sparkling wine with lots of brioche and toasty notes from time spent maturing on its lees, as well as aromas of peaches and cream.  This is easy to drink with a long length.  If you like champagne, give this a try!

Bacchus 2020: This Bacchus is the latest vintage of the award-winning wine mentioned above and has pronounced complex aromas – I tasted lime, gooseberry, grass, elderflower, peach, apricot, nectarine, orange blossom and melon. What can you taste? 

Pinot Noir Rosé 2020: Crisp and refreshing, this lovely rosé reveals its complex aromas as the chill comes off, so let it warm a little in your hands when you take it out of the fridge to experience lots of intense red summer fruits and a medium body.

2 thoughts on “Winbirri”

  1. I’m enjoying the blog. I see there’s a lot about sparkling wine though – are there many still wines being produced in England? If so, can you tell me a bit more?

    1. Thanks! All the vineyards I’ve visited are producing still wines but the main focus of many is sparkling. England’s just north of the ideal latitude for ripening grapes for winemaking, but climate change has caused temperatures to rise making it (just) possible to do so. To make a good, balanced sparkling wine you need grapes that at harvest are only just ripe. The cool English climate (not that you’d believe it as I write this on the day we hit record temperatures) is ideal for this – hence the proliferation of vineyards focused on sparkling wine – which I think is great. By contrast, to achieve a still wine that is not unpleasantly acidic through underripe grapes, is more challenging in the English climate. I hope we do see more in future though as those I’ve tried I’ve enjoyed – Bacchus, for example, is a grape that copes well in the English climate and often makes a lovely aromatic wine. I will try to add more tips on the blogs about still wines to seek out!

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