People are often surprised to hear that one of the country’s oldest vineyards is in Worcestershire. Astley Vineyard, located just 10 miles north of Worcester, 30 minutes from the glorious Malvern Hills, and less than a mile from the majestic River Severn, was first planted in 1971 and has been producing award winning wine ever since from its beautiful 2-hectare site. During its 50-year history Astley’s wine has been served at iconic venues such as Tate Modern Gallery in London, recommended by Rick Stein, and won national and international medals.
The vineyard was bought by the Haywood family in 2017 and they have since invested heavily in the business, building a stylish visitor centre and their own winery. Tim Haywood is the current owner and proud that that the journey of ‘grape to glass’ is now only 200 metres. He reflects: “It was a big risk but investing in our own winery allows us total control over the wine making process and allows us to experiment. Visitors are shown how our wine is produced, all through the lengthy process. We are also proud to be now managing the vineyard organically. The sustainable stewardship of the land is vitally important to the entire family.”
So its no surprise that the Haywood family’s hard work has now been recognised by the Rural Business Awards. In February 2022, they won overall Best Rural Food & Drinks Business, an accolade sponsored by Amazon. Bev Haywood explained the importance of the award to the family; “This was very humbling, as there are so many inspiring businesses out there. It’s special because it’s not about the wine but recognises our commitment to the rural community, our work in sustainability and our journey as a family since taking on the business five years ago.”
Astley Vineyard produces mainly still, white wines from a range of grape varieties. It is best known for its Kerner which is related to Riesling. Chris is the winemaker; “Kerner is a fantastic grape for the English climate, and we are the only vineyard in the UK to use it commercially. It can be used in still and sparkling wines. Most importantly, it ages really well.” Astley also blends its own vermouth, and occasionally produces dessert and rosé wines, depending on the harvest.
The stylish Tasting Room, which opened in 2018, has facilitated a new and very popular tour programme. The tours run once a week throughout the summer, are led by the owners themselves, and have received glowing reviews. In 2021, Astley’s tours were listed by The Times, Delicious magazine, and the Conde Nast World Traveller website amongst the very best in the UK. Following this success, Astley Vineyard is increasingly working other tourism businesses. In September 2021, they partnered with the Michelin starred Hampton Manor hotel team to run a luxury all-inclusive glamping weekend on the estate, as well as hosting a Wine Tasting train with Severn Valley Railway.
The Haywoods continue to look for more ways to delight visitors. This coming summer, as well as their very popular vineyard tours, the Haywood family will be hosting a range of new events including Sparkling Afternoon Teas, and outdoor cooking workshops. And unveiled this year is the Astley Wine Garden, allowing guests to enjoy a glass outdoors on a pretty terrace, next to estate’s own wooded valley. Tim is delighted with the estate’s development. “The vineyard’s 50th birthday is a wonderful milestone, but it feels there is still much more we can do. We value our very special heritage, but we also look forward to a fantastic future!”
The shop is open Friday – Sunday 10.30 am until 4 pm throughout the year and the popular tours must be pre-booked.