This Saturday is National Rose Day, but perhaps it’s time to get a bit more adventurous and celebrate with something blue instead? You see, there are more than 900 vineyards in the UK but only one makes dry sparkling blue wine…
Adgestone Vineyard on the Isle of Wight, among the oldest continuously operating vineyards in the UK, is responsible for Something Blue, a unique, lightly bubbling Cuvee made using the Methode Traditionelle, laying on its lees for at least 18 months. In many ways it’s just like more traditional wines… only blue.
Its creator, former engineer Russ Broughton, originally worked in robotics with Ford before moving to the container port industry at Southampton and London Gateway. He now owns Adgestone Vineyard on the edge of the Brading Downs along with corporate lawyer Philippa Jane.
Neither Broughton nor Jane had any previous experience working within the wine industry and Broughton says he essentially stumbled upon the vineyard: “I was on holiday when I saw an ad in the local paper – ‘Vineyard For Sale’. I went and had a look and it was a complete rundown mess. But, having renovated a few properties, built a house, a garage and two cars from scratch I thought ‘Why not?’”
Adgestone Winery, which originally opened in 1968, was once a prestigious vineyard, winning the Gore Brown Trophy for English wine in 1970. The original plantings of Seyval Blanc in 1968 still survive today – they are affectionately known as the “Old Ladies” – making them the oldest commercial vines in the UK. That’s nothing, though: there’s topological evidence that the Romans were growing vines on Adgestone’s slopes some 2,000 years ago.
Since purchasing the business in 2013, Broughton has planted over 6,000 vines, including 3,000 in the first year, along with 600 posts and 20km of trellis. He has increased the average harvest from 3,000 bottles to over 25,000. Alongside this, they have expanded the business into country wine and liqueur production.
Adgestone recently became a national news story when, during the Covid lockdown, there were 11,000 vines that needed training. After an appeal for help on social media, 300 people came and helped, turning what could have been a terrible harvest into one of the best in eight years.
Blue wine is generally made from a blend of red and white grapes to which anthocyanin – a pigment from red grape skin – is added along with the organic, plant-based food dye Indigotime. It is generally fairly sweet and is great for drinking during the summer.
The world’s first blue wine was made by Spanish start-up Gik. Born For Fun is a wine of no denomination made from a blend of Spanish and French red and white grapes. Working with scientists from the University of the Basque Country and food researchers at Azti Tecnalia, co-founder Artiz Lopez was inspired by a business theory book called Blue Ocean Strategy by Korean W Chan Kim.
Kim wrote that Red oceans represent markets saturated by specialists – or sharks – who fight over a reduced number of clients, turning the water red. He promotes innovation to create new variables, inspiring Lopez to “turn a traditionally red beverage into a blue one.”
Another azure vino is made by Blue Aurora at Lutton Farm outside Oundle in Northamptonshire. The Long family pick 500 tonnes of blueberries each year, and the strict grading process produces between 15 and 20 per cent of fruit that’s either too small or too soft for supermarkets. They instead use it to make Midnight Blueberry Wine, which pairs well with steak and mushroom risotto; Dusk, which uses 1.5 kilos of blueberries in each bottle and is good with slow-cooked lamb or chocolate desserts; and Blueberry Ice Wine which makes a fantastic digestif.
While many would turn their noses up at a blue bevvy, Broughton says people should keep an open mind: “think differently, drink differently and think differently again,” he says.