Today on the blog we have the wonderful wino Nicola Heyes joining us. She recently was back in her home country, the UK, and came across a hidden gem for wine lovers. Have you ever tried wine made from Raspberry, Elderflower or Elderberry? Well if not, you may want to after reading this and probably like me you’ll want to be on the next plane to visit High Cup Wines!
Whilst back in the UK recently I stumbled upon High Cup Winery. Now, when I say ‘stumbled upon’ I don’t quite mean ‘fell’ into Cumbria’s only winery and vineyard but I did happen to take a double glance at a poster which was advertising an art exhibition in a local winery. Cumbria – the county which is probably better known as the Lake District – is more renowned for its stunning scenery (rain, hail or shine), infamous walks and treks up glorious mountains, lakes (of course) and real ale, so that’s why I had to do a double take on the poster I saw. Yes, it definitely said ‘winery’.
Interestingly, when I checked out their website, I further discovered that High Cup Winery produces a range of wines from their own local fruit.
That thought certainly took me back down memory lane. My parents would literally drag my brothers and I out for weekend walks from mid-July onwards – armed with plastic bags and forks. Doesn’t sound like the usual walk and picnic does it? That’s because it was elderberry season and my parents were using child labour to ‘fork’ off the elderberries to make homemade wine.
BUT let me tell you this was wine of the ‘homemade’ variety. The laundry equipped with buckets and demijohns, tea towels stained with elderberries and confused-looking parents (who I am sure, almost 30 years later, won’t mind me saying that my brothers and did sneakily taste of the end result, and it was enough to put me off wine for life.
So putting that memory firmly aside my mum and I ventured to High Cup Wines one Sunday afternoon.
The gorgeous stone-built 18th and 19th century winery with its cobbled courtyard and farm buildings is tucked away in the winding country lanes of Keisley in Appleby and is only open two months of the year – July and August.
It is situated at the foot of the Pennines – a wonderful mountain range that shines brightly over the Lake District. It’s in an area of outstanding natural beauty with magnificent views of the Lakeland fells across the valley of the River Eden.
High Cup Wines takes its name form High Cup Gill – a stunning range – that not only features on the wine labels but towers behind the winery in all its green glory.
The winery pays dedication to High Cup Gill and the geology of the local area with a special display in its gallery. High Cup Nick – is one of Northern England’s geological wonders. It is a stunning u-shaped glaciated valley.
High Cup Wines was established at Townhead Farm and Winery as a diversification from the ubiquitous sheep farming in the attractive part of Cumbria.
Originally a hay barn, the building was converted into a winery back in 2007 and it’s small and inconspicuous cellar door is a real hidden gem – and a refreshing stop for passing walkers and cyclists.
On offer for free tastings are a selection of local fruit wines such as: Elderflower and Apple, Damson, Raspberry, Elderberry, Rhubarb, Beetroot, Bramble, Gooseberry, Blackcurrant – the range is quite extraordinary.
A couple of wines are also made from local Eden Valley grapes – which is pretty impressive for a county that often has four seasons in one day!
Elderflower & Apple Wine
My mum and I eased ourselves in with a taster of Elderflower and Apple wine. Pale and straw-yellow like in colour, similar to an Australian Verdelho, the aromas were quite incredible. Lifted floral notes of elderflower were reminiscent of elderflower cordial, so concentrated and rich. It is a light to medium-bodied white wine with elderflower as the dominant fruit – and just a hint of apple. It is such an explosion of flavour – and really makes you think of the UK’s summer abundant hedgerows. The finish is dry and crisp – which surprised me as I usually associate fruit wines being sweet. This delicious wine, which we happily sipped with our Sunday roast pork, has an alcohol content of 12% – also another surprise. It was a perfect match.
The thought of Rhubarb wine really intrigued me, so I couldn’t resist a taste. A rich pink rosé in colour, this wine had a nose of intense rhubarb, it was really quite different to think this is a wine not a dessert in a glass! The palate was incredibly herbaceous and had a great mouthfeel which again, finished off crisp and dry. I wasn’t entirely sure how to match the wine with food with the rhubarb being such a distinctly rich flavour, but the sun was shining, so it made the perfect aperitif in the garden, soaking up a few (and rare) English rays.
Next on our list and in keeping with the rosé theme was Raspberry Wine. Deeper in colour and obviously completely different in taste. Raspberries – known for having an intriguing tartness – make an unusual but very drinkable wine. This medium-bodied wine was zesty and brought our tastebuds alive. Of course, being made with raspberries, this wine is extremely high in vitamin c, manganese and dietary fibre – and are a low glycaemic index food – which ultimately means it’s good for you, doesn’t it? We paired this wine with some tapas style food including a selection of cheeses and charcuterie and it was actually a great balance of flavours.
I braced myself for the next wine – Elderberry. I shared my childhood tales of picking these tiny black fruits to Angela (Ron and Angela Barker are the owners and winemakers at High Cup Wines).
I was quite blown away by this rich, fruity red wine – which was nothing like the homemade variety from my childhood days. It was a wonderfully dry, almost medium-bodied wine, with a rich and complex nose and palate. It reminded me of Petit Verdot or Mouverdre with their burlier characters. The taste was initially strange. I think my brain was telling me this is a fruit wine and therefore will taste of fruit. But the wine actually tasted like wine. It almost tasted grapey!
Elderberry is sometimes known as the Englishman’s grape with excellent tannin levels, colour and reasonable amounts of sugar and acid. Elderberries are also not pectin-rich – although many fruits do contain pectin – which is good for making jams but not for making wine. Even better still, elderberries have enormous health benefits and antioxidant properties such as lowering cholesterol, boosting the immune system, improving vision, good for heart health to name a few.
These sharp black berries are high in vitamin B and C, can help alleviate allergies and eliminate constipation – and here is it, in a bottle and it is wine (at 13% alcohol). A delicious wine. Move over kale, move over turmeric – Elderberry wine will be the next superfood. Watch this space.
We had no problems matching High Cup’s Elderberry Wine with Cumberland sausages and a rich gravy – well, when in Cumbria…drink and eat the local produce.
I can honestly say I was blown away by High Cup Winery and their stunning range of fruit wines. Ron and Angela Barker are small players in the world of wine but they are serious contenders. Ron, an environmental geophysicist and Angela a former teacher, moved to the Eden Valley in Cumbria to enjoy the peaceful lifestyle and to really celebrate the generosity of their environment. With fruit in abundance – and on their doorstep – it seemed natural to share – and what a perfect and unique way to do it – with wine.
Their gorgeous cellar door and winery is home to a regular changing art exhibition, promoting local artists, a permanent geology display which celebrates the nearby environment, homemade cakes and superb homemade wines.
Next time you’re in the UK, please visit the Lake District and seek out this fantastic winery. Go for a trek up High Cup Gill, take a picnic – and a wonderful bottle of fruit wine and you will feel on top of the world!
For more information, have a look at the website and read High Cup Winery’s blog.