You can now take a tour of Cornwall's vineyards with a designated driver
PUBLISHED: 12:10 09 September 2019 | UPDATED: 10:30 12 November 2019
Award-winning wines, stunning vineyard settings, passionate producers; Cornwall has all the right ingredients to become a world-class destination in the small but growing niche of wine tourism. And, thanks to young entrepreneur Kate McBurnie, enthusiasts can now visit several vineyards in one day with no designated driver required…
Sitting on the terrace at Camel Valley, overlooking the vines, sipping a glass of internationally-acclaimed sparkling wine - this is how a day with Cornish Wine Tours typically starts. For those with an interest in the world of wine, or anyone who simply enjoys a tasting experience, there can be no better way to explore Cornwall's multifaceted wine scene than a tour led by Kate McBurnie, who's excursions began last year and have already won numerous accolades.
Having visited several wine regions herself over the years, Kate had an epiphany on returning to her home in Padstow after one such trip: Cornwall has all the attractions of places like Marlborough in New Zealand, or the Cape Winelands in South Africa, so why not start operating tours here?
Kate committed herself wholeheartedly to the project, supplementing her existing wine knowledge with intensive study and hands-on winery work experience. Cornish Wine Tours was launched last year, and Kate now runs a busy schedule of full and half-day tours between March and October. Her programme includes other events such as wine and theatre evenings - visiting Polgoon Vineyard & Orchard and the Minack Theatre in West Cornwall), brewery tours and collaborations with some of Cornwall's most celebrated hotels and restaurants.
Kate's determination to bring a unique, high quality new experience led to her being named New Business of the Year at the South West Tourism Awards 2019. Robin Barker, who presided at the awards for Services For Tourism, described the tours as an "unmissable Cornish summer experience which showcases the best the county has to offer".
In the peaceful courtyard at Knightor Winery, tour guests gain further insight into what characterises Cornwall's terroir - the unique combination of soil, climate and wine-making traditions which creates an imprint of regional identity. In the historic wine centres of Europe, where vineyards have been part of the landscape for hundreds - sometimes thousands - of years, these characteristics are already firmly defined, although their nuances may be disputed by more radical producers. However, in a relatively new wine-making region like Cornwall (Polmassick Vineyard at St Ewe is said to be the oldest, planted in 1978) the concept of what defines a Cornish wine is still up for grabs.
Following a day travelling in Kate's luxurious tour bus, guests of Cornish Wine Tours will have formed their own impressions. After Camel Valley and Knightor, the next stop on the vine trail is Trevibban Mill Vineyard. Enjoying idyllic surroundings on the Issey Brook near Padstow, vine-covered slopes and gardens surround a stylish and contemporary tasting room and winery bar. Owners Liz and Engin planted their vines on slate soils, which imbue the wines of Trevibban Mill with a distinctive purity and attractive mineral notes.
Trevibban Mill is also home to Appleton's Bar & Restaurant run by Andy and his partner Lyndsey, the venue for a gourmet three-course lunch which is included with a full-day tour. "The cellar door tasting experience helps you become familiar with the different styles, but really wine is best enjoyed alongside food," says Kate. "Our fabulous lunches at Appleton's are an opportunity for guests to enjoy a glass or two paired with Cornwall's delicious seasonal bounty; that's when the wines really come into their own."
So, after a day of touring and tasting, what is the general verdict on Cornwall's wines? "People are always impressed with the quality of all the wines they try, but also the diversity of styles," says Kate. "The words people use the most to describe Cornish wines are 'fresh', 'vibrant' and 'aromatic', and everyone always says how delicious they are with Cornish seafood and things like samphire and asparagus. I guess that proves the rule that what grows together, goes together!"
Kate's tours are a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in Cornwall's increasingly confident and varied wine-making culture, gaining an insight into what makes wines from this part of the world so special.
Tours start at £75 for a half day tour. A full-day tour including lunch at Appleton's is £125. Kate also runs special events and brewery and distillery tours - visit the website for details. Gift vouchers are also available.
Kate's Must-Try Cornish Wines
Camel Valley White Pinot Noir £32.95: A fab 'Blanc de Noir' - very attractive on the eye, a beautiful colour with a hint of pink. Complex, bready, yeasty aromas, yet still displaying fresh berries on the nose. Great for a special occasion, such as the weekend!
Polgoon Sauvignon Blanc £15.95: A unique single estate, single variety Sauvignon Blanc made in Cornwall. Green apples, and hints of tropical fruit makes this a perfect garden aperitif. Super refreshing and moreish!
Trevibban Mill Constantine £21.95: A dry white wine which is delicately oaked. The blend of Chardonnay, Seyval Blanc and Reichensteiner gives complexity and a full body - unusual in this part of the world and makes this a food-friendly choice. A slight smokiness on the nose and lingering notes of honey to finish.
Knightor 9112 £25.00: A blend of the 2009, 2011, and 2012 vintage using Chardonnay, Reichensteiner, Pinot Noir, Huxulrebe and Pinot Meunier. For me this is a very drinkable sparkling wine; dry, with a subtle nuttiness and a lemon citrus note which keeps it fresh and inviting.
Bosue Quality Sparkling Wine £24.95: A blend of lesser known grape varieties Johanniter and Orion made in the traditional method from this beautiful boutique vineyard in St Ewe. Elderflower on the nose, followed by green apple and lime on the palette. Makes me think of summer!