Something many people may not be aware of when visiting Jersey, is that we have our very own exceptional vineyard.
Yes, you heard me right. Our dinky little island even has space for a vineyard! We may only be small, but we can still pack a punch with the diversity we have here!
You may have noticed my blogs tend to get a little bit longer when I write about a place a really love or am passionate about, fair warning, this is one of those times… you may want to make a cuppa’ first!
Originally built in 1797 and owned by the De Gruchy family, the estate was eventually sold to Mr Blayney and his wife in 1968. It would seem Mr Blayney, a wine merchant by trade, saw the opportunity to develop the estate, and in 1972, he planted the very first vines at La Mare. (We owe him a thank you!)
Having discovered that Suze, writer of Luxury columnist blog, was due to visit Jersey, we hooked up over email and decided to arrange a blogger get together. Which is a real luxury for me, as there aren’t many bloggers on island to chat to about all things blog!
We then happened to be lucky enough to receive an invitation from Tim, the MD at La Mare Vineyard, to come along as guests and join a wine tasting tour for the day – perfect! As you can see, we were blessed with beautiful weather on the day, we really couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend the afternoon.
Tim and his whole team at La Mare are *super* passionate about the estate. Each experts in their own fields, they treat it as though it were their own home. There’s not a question you can ask any of them that they cannot answer for you! It’s an absolute pleasure to visit every time and I always learn something new.
Darren, the chocolatier, creates delicious delicacies all day long in his kitchen. Zoe, the tourism manager, offers up insight second to none regarding the history and origins of the estate. Whilst Daniel, the wine maker (VERY important man!), oversees the perfect production and maintenance of the vineyard and orchard. Of course, the whole team is headed up by Tim, who clearly inspires the passion and commitment in all who are lucky enough to call this their place of work!
They also hold accreditations for being an eco-active business and a Green Tourism Gold business, so you can be sure all their methods are as environmentally friendly as possible.
Upon arrival at the vineyard, we explored around the estate and had a play with some of the games and information points available to keep us entertained, before settling in for a cup of tea ahead of the tour, where we made an unexpected new friend too!
Out tour began in the spectacular vineyard where the vines were basking in the sunshine, as were we! La Mare Vineyard has 9 acres of vineyards and 9 acres of orchards for their apples too. Their major vine varieties are Seyval Blanc, Orion and Phoenix, white variety and Regent, Pinot Noir and Rondo red variety. Most are grown on the Scott Henry system, although they do also use American and Australian systems.
The vines are all pruned in winter ready for the next years growth, with July being the most important month for flowering, so keep your fingers crossed for plenty of sunshine, before finally being harvested in the first couple of weeks in October – by hand, no less! That’s some serious dedication to making the perfect wine!
We then followed our guide though to see the delightful chocolate kitchen, the smell here is absolutely divine! You can actually book to go and take part in a chocolate making activity too, which I highly recommend!
Yes, those are wheels that you can see spinning round the melted white and milk chocolate to keep it from setting, it’s so tempting to just stick your fingers in (But don’t, it is very much frowned upon!)
Next, we moved on to the ‘Cognac Style’ distillery, where the delicious Jersey Apple Brandy VSOP is made. Apples from La Mare’s own orchards are used in the process, double distilled in oak casks imported from the USA, which were previously filled with Bourbon. The maturing process takes a spectacular minimum of 4 years – good job they already have a supply and you don’t have to wait!
Of course, as with any food or drink product, the proof is in the pudding, or in the wine as the case may be! So we shuffled along to the wine tasting part of the tour.
Sat at tables formed from barrels, we nestled in amongst the wine vats and took out our tasting notes, eagerly waiting to get stuck in!
We began with the Sainte Marie, which is a medium dry white, made from a blend of the Orion and Seyval blanc grapes. This was my personal favourite, I’ve actually been known to have this stocked in the fridge on a few occasions!
Next up was the Perquage, a deliciously fruity and off dry rosé wine, made from the Regent, Rondo and Seyval Blanc grapes. I’m personally not a fan of dark rosé wine, so this light tipple was perfect for me, I shall have to remember to get some in for when summer finally arrives!
Last but not least, we tasted a dry red wine made from Pinot Noir, Regent and Rondo grape varieties, know as the Bailiwick. Red is a winter drink for me mostly, but this was very smooth and easily drinkable, so I could probably make an exception on occasion.
So, we had come to the end of the tour and were led through to the vineyard shop on the way out, so we could view the full and very vast range of products made at the estate. But not before a cheeky taste of the Jersey Apple Brandy Cream, which was even served in an edible chocolate cup! It’s a very similar taste to another ‘well known’ cream liquor, although personally I do prefer the Jersey version, can you tell?!
The shop is jam packed full of spirits such as the Royal Vodka and Royal Gin, made from Jersey Royal Potatoes, Liquors, wines, preserves and various delicacies all made at the estate. You can also pick up some of the lovely Jersey Pottery here too.
Genuine Jersey Fudge, Biscuits, Marmalades, Jams, Jellies, Relishes, Sauces, Mustards and Luxury Chocolates are just some of the tantalising items on offer. As well as the famous Jersey Black Butter, a very old and traditional farm-house delicacy of Jersey. Made from cider apples and boiled over a fire for many hours or even up to two days! The mixture is continuously stirred with a wooden paddle to produce this local treat.
After a wonderful tour from our enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide, we met up with the manager, Tim, who kindly showed us in to the Restaurant and Terrace area. Normally this is open to the public, but they had a spectacular wedding taking place on the day of our visit. Yes, you can actually get married here, how amazing would that be?!
Tim very kindly treated us to a lovely glass of the Sainte Marie and showed us to a picnic bench in amongst the vineyard before we headed off for the afternoon, which was an absolutely idyllic way to end such a perfect afternoon.
If you are visiting Jersey and would like to visit La Mare Wine Estate, you can find them in St Mary’s parish. Contact them on +44 1534 481178 to make sure they are open for visitors before heading up.
Another point to note, whilst they do have a shop at the estate, they also have one in the main town, St Helier, and at the airport. So even if you have no luggage allowance, you can always pick things up on your way through duty free!
So there really is no excuse not to try out their wonderful produce. You’ll have to come see us in Jersey for it though as they don’t export, we like to keep all the best bits to ourselves you see!
So we’ll see you soon, right?!