Inside Queen Elizabeth’s vineyard on Windsor Castle estate
Queen Elizabeth is tapping into the sparkling wine industry, leasing out a small chunk of land on her estate outside of Windsor Castle for a vineyard. The wine from those grapes sold out in its first two years of release. CBS News was the first U.S. network allowed inside the vineyard at Windsor Great Park.
It might look like a scene from the sunnier climes of France, but it does not get any more British than this: a modest little vineyard happens to be in the backyard of one of Britain’s biggest landowners – the queen.
Frankly, her span more than 15,000 acres on her estate outside of Windsor Castle, about 20 miles west of London, reports CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata.
Queen Elizabeth is leasing out a small chunk of land on her estate outside of Windsor Castle for a vineyard. CBS NEWS
The man who helped plant the idea – and the vines, for that matter – was winemaker Tony Laithwaite. He grew up in the town of Windsor and thought this patch of prime real estate just might work.
“I was enthusiastic ’cause I thought Windsor Great Park, yeah, that’s – wow, yes, there are several places in there I mean I know the place pretty well,” Laithwaite said.
The queen was enthusiastic too, as was husband Prince Philip, who has held the title of Ranger of Windsor Great Park for 65 years. It is a role he takes very seriously. It was his idea to reintroduce deer to the park back in the 1970s.
“It’s a great honor that we’ve been able to do so.” Laithwaite said, chuckling.
“You got a pretty important boss,” D’Agata said.
“Yes,” Laithwaite agreed.
The land and the climate are best suited for sparkling wine. It’s champagne in all but the name – that belongs to the French and the region of Champagne. But the vines came from Champagne, and the chalky soil is similar. It’s processed exactly the same way, and at $ 45 a bottle, it costs about the same as champagne, too.
Once all those grapes are gathered, Tamara Roberts is in charge of fermenting, bottling and distribution.
“We obviously understand how high profile this particular vineyard is,” Roberts said.
The crown has joined a craze in British sparkling wine. In the last decade, vineyard acreage has grown by an astonishing 135 percent, something wine producers put down to warmer temperatures climbing north.
“If you compare where we are now where Champagne was 30 years ago, that’s pretty much where we are,” Roberts said.
“Weather-wise?” D’Agata asked.
“Weather-wise, and it gives us a chance to grow a grass that grew,” Roberts said.
This year’s first vintage, just 3,000 bottles, were snapped up. Even now there are pre-orders, including orders from the U.S.
But is it any good?
“It’s good, it’s not as good as it will be,” said Hugh Johnson, author of “Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2018.” “The raw material is very good and when the vines are a bit older, it’ll be very good indeed.”
For Laithwaite, the person he wanted to impress most was the queen herself.
“When we presented the first bottles, that was a day,” Laithwaite said with a laugh.
Though just a walk away, it is a world away from where he grew up – and that is worth raising a glass to.