Barbara Laithwaite and her husband, Tony, have owned vineyards in France since the 1980's. Barbara's friend, Cherry Thompson, recently widowed, had bought a few special hectares of Oxfordshire hillside that she and her husband had long thought might be suitable for vine growing. The two met through their young sons, conversations happened over the years and an idea was born! In 2003 the two women had completed their viticulture course at Plumpton and planted over 4000 vines. 2006 produced the first wine, 2007 produced nothing, 2008 produced a good wine. The first commercially-offered vintage however, was 2009, released in 2013. It paved the way and set the standard. A final planting in 2014 completed the hillside, and took the total to 9000 vines. Sons Henry Laithwaite and Ben Postlethwaite came on board to assure the future…Watch the Battle of the Bubbles
This vintage, alas, is sold out, but it set the standard for subsequent years by winning the prestigious Judgement of Parsons Green in 2013. This is the only competition entirely devoted to English Sparkling wine (with a few Champagnes as 'markers'), and is run by the great English wine expert Stephen Skelton with a team of Masters of Wine, Critics and Wine Buyers.
Another medal winner of the classic blend of Chardonnay (55%), Pinot Noir (28%) and Meunier (18%). Just a half-point from winning 'Parsons Green' second time in a row. Also silver medalist in the 'Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships 2014' And picked for the team of 12 representing the UK in a fizz taste-off vs. New Zealand sparklers on the occasion of the Cricket World Cup 2015. 'Overall Best Wine' Trophy; Thames Valley 2014 Wine Challenge.
Currently 'en-tirage' (maturing in bottle, on the lees). This wine , which is slightly more Chardonnay dominant will be finished and ready for sale in the autumn of 2015. Already judged by the experts to be the best so far, it is being entered into competition this year in its unfinished form. Confident - or foolish?
The hardest year in the last two decades for English viticulture. Small crop and not ripe enough for Wyfold.
Back to it's sparkling best so the first year to add magnums to the range.
Nature helping us to the best vintage yet. Look out for magnums and rose as well as the classic blend.
In 2003 with the help of friends and family the first 4000 vines were planted by hand into the flinty Chiltern hillside. Some struggled at first but each vine received such unstinting, year-round care and attention that three years later an extremely healthy vineyard produced its first small crop; that health is the secret of the wine's success. There were three varieties of grape; the same three that grow in the Champagne district of France; black Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and white Chardonnay.
Great wine, they say, is made in the vineyard. Wyfold grapes are outstandingly healthy. It could be the site; an open windswept hillside sloping south towards the sun. It could be the soil extremely stony and fast-draining. But it is also the assiduous - almost obsessive - checking and tending of every individual vine to ensure it is happy and thriving.
The Wyfold style is all shimmering clouds of micro-bubbles, white-gold and crisply clean. The aromas speak of warm pastry and apple peel, followed by a bite also like - but more complex than - a crisp English apple … one that fizzes on the tongue. 'Minerality' is the word that springs to mind. You sense the flint and pebbles, gravel and limestone from which this wine comes.
Only Champagne and Southern England have the white soils and the cold sunshine hours that ripen but do not over warm the grapes.Grapes for the very best sparkling need be picked slightly under ripe. Long hours of sunshine with little heat are ideal. Too much heat and grapes get sweet and less acid. Pick them too sweet and that crisp crackle that sparks the tongue, lifts the spirit and sharpens the appetite is lost.
Sparkling grape growers don’t give their precious harvest to anyone. The Traditional Method or Method Champenoise is long and complex, with far more skilled intervention required than for still wine. The blending process takes time – the all-important second fermentation in the bottle takes three years for Wyfold – and few have the skills.
Wyfold’s grapes could not receive better attention. The Roberts family of Ridgeview in Sussex are pioneers of English fizz – as their success in sales and competition prove. The late Mike Roberts MBE was, until his death in 2014, a leader in the English winemaking industry. The family have been friends with the Laithwaites for over a decade and stay in regular touch. As for Dr Tony Jordan his long career, including CEO/winemaker at Chandon Australia (a subsidiary of Moet et Chandon) and consultant to other Chandons worldwide as well as many other companies, speaks for itself … over 25 years of making superb wines!
The site is special. An open, medium slope facing due south on stony, flinty soil, wonderful for draining excess rain but horrific for the machinery and the tractor! At an average height of 120 metres we often wish we were a little lower as the winter sometimes closes-in before the grapes have been picked. But our exposed site also gives us good summer 'air conditioning' keeping the grapes crisp and sappy. The summer winds, also help keep them healthy. We are 'on the edge' but for quality that's the place to be.
The young plants are brought in from France and planted by hand. This gives them an excellent start in life though we don't like to rush them . Maybe a first, light harvest after three years. Wyfold is a boutique, commercial vineyard… not a hobby! It operates on a highly professional level and produces excellent grapes as a result. Great wine is made… in the vineyard.
Wyfold has many mentors and supporters. The Roberts family of Ridgeview who, not only have made the wine, but have also guided and advised for over 12 years. The late Mike Roberts MBE is greatly missed but his legacy will continue to serve us well. Dr Tony Jordan, who has planted many sparkling vineyards and built several wineries for Möet et Chandon around the world has been a friend and colleague of the Laithwaites for decades. Tony J has a special place here too - his no-nonsense (OK, sometimes blunt) assessment of the wines, his advice on the optimum production for the site have all been welcomed.
Founder and Managing Director. Continues to do much of the day-to-day work herself in the vineyard and is responsible for everything from planning new plantings, through administration, to sales and marketing. Her contacts in the wine world developed over 40 years continue to pay dividends, and she is totally focused on making sure the quality of Wyfold places it amongst the leaders in the English Sparkling wine world.
Founder and director. Cherry was the first to recognise the potential of that particular corner of South Oxfordshire which is Wyfold. The land is now under a long lease to the vineyard which demonstrates her confidence in its long term success. She has stepped back a little now but always there to help where she can.
The Wyfolders; villagers, colleagues from work, friends and family who always turn up enthusiastically, to help during the long growing and harvest seasons - without whom we wouldn't be viable. Few people understand just what a huge amount of work goes into producing good grapes and fine wine...but the Wyfolders certainly do.
Director. Henry is a medal winning grape grower and winemaker in his own right, runs his own sparkling wine vineyard and winery, 'Harrow & Hope,' at Marlow, with his wife Kaye. He now works closely with his mother and the team at Wyfold.
Director. Ben followed his famous father into the world of Formula 1 but Wyfold is another of his passions and he is often found in the vineyard or helping at shows and tastings.