Review: Sharpham wine & cheese tasting tour
Fancy an outdoor foodie meet-up? Here's one we tried earlier, Sharpham's Guided Wine and Cheese Tour. And we have two tours to give away to one lucky Muddy reader!
English wine and cheese sampling by the beautiful banks of the River Dart? Don’t mind if we do! Here’s what happens on a Sharpham guided tasting, and if it sounds like your kinda thang (and seriously why wouldn’t it?) we have two tours to give away over on Muddy Devon instagram.
A globally acclaimed vineyard, Sharpham Wine has been growing vines on the banks of the River Dart, near Totnes, since 1981, producing award-winning sparkling, white, rose and red wines.
To prove good things always come in twos, next door you’ll find Sharpham Cheese, who make award-winning velvety soft and semi-hard cheeses. Their mantelpiece is also heaving with trophies and, since 2019, has operated as as a separate business from the winery, with Greg Parsons at the helm.
There’s also a charming al fresco cafe, The Cellar Door, who capitalise on their creative neighbours by cramming lots of yummy wine and cheese into their fabulous local menu.
We’re here because 2021 is Sharpham’s 40th birthday and Muddy loves a celebration – and the goss is it’s also Sharpham Wine’s last year at this site. The winery, tours and cafe are all moving over the water to their sister location, 25 acres of vineyard at Sandridge Barton. So, this year is last-chance saloon for wine tours at the Sharpham site, although you’ll still be able to visit the cheesery and estate.
Heaven in Devon. Sharpham is down a secluded valley right next to the inky-green river which wends its way around the estate. Ten acres growing ten thousand vines on sun-bathed south facing slopes – it’s Devon at its bucolic best and, what with the delicious wine, a visit is sure to put you in a very good mood – especially if you’re with friends and lucky enough to pick a sunny day.
Chilled, educational and upmarket in a laid-back rustic way. Our tour guides include Sharpham Wine’s CEO and head wine-maker Duncan Schwab (above), Tom Wedgery, a sommelier previously at Gidleigh Park, and Sharpham Cheese owner Greg. All are passionate and uber-knowledgeable about their subject, while being friendly, happy to answer daft questions and generally up for a laugh.
SCOFF & QUAFF
For Covid reasons, tours are currently restricted to groups of eight. On arrival, you’re handed a glass and then you mooch the short few hundred metres from outside the wine shop and cheesery up the hill and onto the south-facing slopes of the vineyard.
Tom gives us tasting notes while Duncan tells us about the history and the horticultural challenges, including the badgers, who love grapes apparently, along with pairing recommendations on which to pack for your picnic, or which wine would go well with a BBQ.
Like all good sparkling wine, Sharpham’s Sparkling Blanc Brut is made Champagne-method, slowly fermenting over thirty months, with each inverted bottle painstakingly given a quarter turn every day until the lees (the unwanted residue) sits in the top of the bottle and can be either frozen and removed or popped out.
You hear how the spritzy white Sharpham New Release 2020 you’re quaffing is naturally low in sulphites, so no hangover (bonus!), and it’s only 11% vol so you won’t embarrass yourself after a lunchtime quaff.
Having savoured all four wines, it’s back down to the cheesery, where Greg (above right) shows the cheese-making area through viewing windows.
Sharpham is a byword for excellent artisan cheese – every good deli in Devon stocks it – thanks to the fact it’s made from the milk of their own herd of Jersey cows and goat milk from neighbouring farms.
It’s a real insight to see where it’s churned and lovingly made into creamy-white truckles, then placed in colanders to be turned, drained and ripened over a number of weeks.
By this time you’re gagging to get your chops around some, so it’s into the winery, under cover of fairy lights hanging from a drapery of vine stems, to do some serious sampling.
Sharpham Brie is their rightful bestseller, the first to be made at Sharpham and heaven if you like something soft and creamy on your cracker. If you love Cheshire cheese, don’t miss the Sharpham Rustic or if you prefer something crumbly but with a bit more bite, try the Ticklemore, made from goats’ cheese. Sorry, but once you’ve tried Sharpham’s cheese, the plastic-wrapped supermarket stuff just won’t do it for you anymore.
OUT AND ABOUT
The wine and cheese tour lasts an hour and a half so if you want to stay a while, how about booking in for lunch either before or afterwards at The Cellar Door? Think in-season, foraged, home-reared pork and Brixham fish dishes and as of this year, veg grown in their own no-dig, organic kitchen garden. Woof.
There’s also an on-site shop (above) where you can buy what you’ve just been sampling to take home.
Sharpham is on the Dart Valley Trail, ideal for cyclists and walkers with Totnes only a few miles away. Always worth a visit for its high street bustling with fabulous indie stores, a weekend market and a well-preserved motte and bailey English Heritage castle sitting just above the town’s rooftops.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Any vineyard tour is a treat but at Sharpham you get more bang for your buck, thanks to the cheese pairing and that fantastic location.
Good for: an outdoor meet-up with friends and family; day trippers with a love of the vine; gardeners and would-be viticulturists; walkers and cyclists who like a reward for their efforts; a gift – they do vouchers; the pooch, it’s dog-friendly.
Not for: teetotallers (obvs); large groups, the max number on a tour is 8 until things open up further; under 18s, although there’s no problem bringing kids. Self-guided tours are best if you have very young children so you can set your own pace.
The damage: £15pp, booking required. Tours run Mon – Fri 11am & 3pm, Sat & Sun 11am.
Sharpham Guided Wine Tasting Sharpham Estate, Totnes, Devon TQ9 7UT Tel: 01803 732 203
Want to do some sampling for yourself? Course you do! Head over to Muddy Devon instagram where we have two Guided Tasting Tours to give away one lucky-lucky Muddy reader!