Alan McKechnie was not the sort of person to allow polio to prevent him from making an impact. A keen motoring enthusiast he launched a Formula 5000 racing team, which was instrumental in helping the early career of Nigel Mansell. He also owned the Fairfield Fruit Farms in Gloucestershire which managed orchards and grew soft fruit. In 1972 he planted a few vines on an experimental basis - and thus was born one of the oldest and most important wine producers in England.
The timing was fortuitous, as the second grape harvest ripened under the spectacular English summer of 1976. Suitably encouraged about the suitability of the area for producing grapes, McKechnie's farm manager, Tom Day, planted additional vines and the total planted area had risen to 8 ha by the time the farm was sold in 1984. Businessman John Oldacre subsequently bought the business and entered into another period of expansion. Vines plots were increased to a total of ca. 30 ha and the winery expansion allowed it to supply contract services for other growers in the Severn Valley. Most of the vines were then German cultivars, and the winery was best known for its Bacchus.
Winemaker Martin Fowkes arrived at Three Choirs in 1988. He feels that the well-drained sandy soils are best suited to producing aromatic white wines so, eschewing current fashion, the vineyard largely steers clear of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Instead most of the 16 different cultivars are Germanic ones such as Bacchus, Muller Thurgau, Reichensteiner, Seyval Blanc, Schonburger and Siegerrebe. These are mainly used to produce dry or off dry white table wines. Smaller amounts of red and rosé table wines are also produced from Rondo and Dornfelder. They currently produce one sparkling wine - the Classic Cuvée - which contains ~30% Pinot Noir and ~70% Seyval Blanc. Winery facilities are large enough that they are able to offer contract winemaking services to other winegrowers in western England and Wales. Since 2003 they have also been producing beer and cider.
In 2014 Three Choirs acquired the Wickham Vineyard in Hampshire, which had previously gone into administration, and which includes 8 ha of vineyards.
An important part of the business model is the availability of visitors’ facilities at Newent, geared for the use of tourists and locals alike. These include tours and tastings, a vineyard restaurant located in Tom Day's former home and high-quality accommodation. The entire enterprise is currently owned and operated by Thomas Shaw.
(Images © Three Choirs)
Tel: 01531 890223
Winemaker: Martin Fowke
Blanc de Noirs
English House Medium Dry
Three Choirs, Classic Cuvée NV
Straw; yeasty nose; dry, sharp acidity, creamy baked apples palate, med length (7 May 2014) Recommended, 84/100