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Joel's blog: The Mountain People

White fog lifting & falling on mountain-brow
Trees moving in rivers of wind
The clouds arise
as on a wave, gigantic eddy lifting mist
above teeming ferns exquisitely swayed
along a green crag
glimpsed thru mullioned glass in valley rain

These words, taken from the long poem Wales - A Visitation by Allen Ginsberg, were written whilst the writer, and the publisher Tom Maschler, were tripping on LSD whilst staying at the latter’s hillside cottage in Capel-Y-Ffin, up the road from Tintern Abbey. Maschler took an iconic photo of the beat poet in front of the abbey's ecclesiastical ruins.

It’s easy to feel the inspiration when standing on the steep hillside in Tintern, on the Welsh bank of the River Wye, where Parva Farm’s vineyard sits with the most incredible view of the abbey. Naturally I had not been indulging myself, but had in fact finally found the time to visit Dave Morris, formerly of Monmouth’s Ancre Hill, who now leases Parva, one of the oldest vineyards in the UK. I’d long respected Dave’s informed but relaxed attitude to winemaking and farming, and was intrigued to taste his new wines, Gwin Pobl Y Mynydd, or Wines of the Mountain People. I wasn’t disappointed.

At Parva they have vines of an age that is rare to find in the UK - the oldest planted back in 1979. And they have Pinot Noir vines, the classic varietal, not the early Pinot we mostly see in the UK. There are the often-seen hybrids, Bacchus, Seyval, and Regent, and a real blend of Alsatian varietals, some Dave could not pronounce, and the classic Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris & Gewurztraminer. 

"Whatever you think of the burying of cow horns ... this farming system works."

Previously operating under conventional farming practices, it has been taken over by an individual long steeped in biodynamic principles. It’s worth remembering how ahead of the curve, for the UK, Ancre Hill were in farming biodynamically. Dave, who had spent time working at Nyetimber, an English sparkling wine producer in Sussex, had seen the effect of chemicals on the vineyards there, inspiring him to look for another option, spending time working around the world, notably in France & New Zealand, at biodynamic estates. Whatever you think of the burying of cow horns, a favoured biodynamic technique, this farming system works. 

After he’d left Ancre Hill, the opportunity came up to lease the Parva vineyards. The previous owners were retiring and fortunately Dave jumped at the chance, immediately starting to convert this historic vineyard to biodynamics, but also changing the pruning system to his liking. There is a lot of work ahead, as it takes time for the vines and soil to adapt from conventional farming. But Dave is starting to see the results.

We drove to his cellar, a DIY winery space, that he is renting down the road, to taste them. Here he makes the wine for himself, but also does contract winemaking for small vineyards in Wales and the South West. We tasted wines from Hebron in Pembrokeshire, The Dell, Aldwick, Mayland, all with a balance and elegance to the wines that I found quite striking. But it was on tasting the 2022 Pinot noir from Parva itself that the eureka moment happened. It had a ripeness and roundness to the fruit that I haven’t ever tasted in the UK. Dave attributes this at least partially to the varietal, a classic Pinot noir, and crucially, the age of the vines. In it’s unfortunately small 55 litre glass demijohn (badgers took the rest of the fruit), and currently without any additions, it is simply a delicious Pinot Noir by any standards, were it made in the UK or anywhere else.

At Wright’s we now have, in small quantities, the first wines released from this special place, Rhosyn and St Jude. Both are field blends of up to 17 different varietals including the Pinot (2022 was the first year to make a straight red wine). They are low in alcohol with beautiful aromatic fruit, delicious and perfect for the season, with warmer days ahead. These are unique mountain wines, in a location reflective of the Ginsberg poem, but made in a spirit more akin to the song that inspired the name.

Super Furry Animals - Mountain People

They don't care about
You and me
No not us
We're the mountain people
So far away from those
Tree lined streets
Look so neat
Not for us
No fat chance
We're the mountain people
They'll seek us in the valley
They'll seek us on the plain
They own the milk and runny honey
And they're not quite the same
And we
Live together under
Oak trees
In the dark
We make sparks
So unique
We're the mountain people