Drinking

Camel Valley

In front of me, rolling down a sun-drenched slope, is one field of a vineyard that’s bursting with greenery. A single female figure is tending the vines. I can’t help wondering what she’s thinking.

“We just concentrate on making the best wine we can, winning awards and then telling people. We love having people on the tours to meet people and share what we do, face-to-face.” - Bob Lindo

 

  • The Camel Valley vineyard opens Mon – Fri 10-5 in winter and Mon – Sat from April to Sept.
  • Tours from April – Sept. Check website for latest details and to book
  • Wine is sold by the glass, half glass, bottle and case on site.

I am sitting out on a sun terrace with an elegant flute of wonderful sparkling wine in one hand, whilst the other shields my eyes from the bright golden globe above me. I knew I should have packed the Ray Bans.

But I’m not in the south of France, or Italy, or even Spain, but in deepest Cornwall, not far from Wadebridge, at a vineyard where ex- RAF pilot Bob Lindo and his family make a delectable British bubbly. There’s a trophy cabinet, bursting with awards from all over the world to prove it.

Camel Valley

 

The field in front of me is Annie’s Vineyard. Annie is Bob’s wife, and the lady of the field and only she ever tends the vines here. All 5000 of them. Perfectly manicured. By hand. Every year. The plaque beside the field tells me that equates to a million cuts between 1989 and 2011 – and that every cut comes with a thought. I knew it.

Bob’s son Sam (multiple winner of the UK Wine Maker of the Year award) is also a key figure in this cottage industry that’s grown to be a global player enjoyed at government functions and trade shows as far afield as Japan and Sri Lanka. It’s made an appearance on The Apprentice and British royalty are big fans too – Prince Charles first tried Camel Valley in Japan – but it was at a trade fair in London where it really grabbed his attention.

“Sam had gone up to London with a lot of other Cornish brands and Prince Charles came to look round and asked if he could come and visit us when he was down on his next Duchy visit,” Bob tells me. “Sam being Sam handed them a brochure and said ‘of course you can, we’re open Monday to Friday 10 to 5’. Well, the whole of the press and Charles couldn’t stop laughing. And so they came!”

Annie's Vineyard, Camel Valley

This is a typical Lindo story. Laid-back thoughts and laughter rub shoulders with down-to-earth, old-fashioned hard work here on the farm. Whilst interviewing Bob Lindo, I may at one point have likened him to quality-focused Walter White from the cult TV show Breaking Bad. You see, Bob is obsessive about every single element of the process of making his wines. Chemistry and cleanliness are paramount.

“I will go back to being an RAF pilot for a moment and say that the way you get good at something is to do every little bit better than someone else is doing it,” says Bob. “So the thing you’re doing, like cleaning a tank - doesn’t seem like a massive part of the final quality of the wine but it really is. It’s one of maybe a thousand things and all of them don’t look that important, but if you do enough of them in shoddy way you have a poor product, If you do all of them perfectly you’ll have a decent product.”

Any Breaking Bad fans with me here? Anyway, fortunately for me, Bob is a very amiable sort (and he hasn’t seen the show) so I seem to have got away with comparing him to a meth king. Phew.

If you want to know more then explore on a tour that’s always led by a family member or one of the winemakers to get you right to the heart of the action. Find out more about the different grapes, why the climate here is perfect for producing award-winning sparkling wines and visit the winery to learn about the fermenting and bottling process. You’ll probably discover another cropful of amazing stories, too. Ask about Bob’s site survey in Maryland, his invitations to the prestigious champagne growers dinner in France, or about the celebrities who have visited and signed the beams and walls in the Visitor Centre.

Then sit back and sample a glass of sparkling Camel Valley ‘Cornwall’. Taste the pop of raspberry and strawberry in the Pinot Noir Rose, the fresh, fruity complexity of the Brut or the red fruits and light elegance of the White Pinot Noir.

This wine is quite literally the Cornish countryside captured in a glass. I’ll be taking a few bottles home to pop a cork to UK holidays in the sun when the winter greys roll in.

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