University’s wine scoops bronze at prestigious UK wine awards

A still white Ortega wine, produced by the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) from its six-acre vineyard near Cirencester, has scooped a Bronze award at this year’s prestigious WineGB Awards announced today.

This is the first time the RAU has produced a single variant and only around 1,000 bottles of the 2020 Cotswold Hills Ortega, which also won a bronze medal at last month’s Independent English Wine Awards (IEWA 22), have been produced.

Katy Duke, Head of Enterprise and Employability at the RAU, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have won this award and to have had the Cotswold Hills Ortega recognised by the UK’s national winemaking body and such an esteemed panel of expert judges.

“We only have a small vineyard, at which we grow four grape varieties, and only started producing wines in 2016. Not only is our wine social enterprise project a fantastic live case study for our students but, thanks to their hard work, our operation continues to grow year on year, not only in terms of product range and the outlets we supply but, importantly, sales!

“We only produced around 1,000 bottles of the Cotswold Hills Ortega. As a less common grape in the UK we wanted to enter the WineGB awards to highlight the wonderful qualities of this varietal and show what a fabulous wine it makes!”

Cotswold Hills is a social enterprise project run by the RAU which was set up in 2016 when the University took over the vineyard at Down Ampney near Cirencester. Once the grapes are picked, the wines are produced by the Three Choirs Vineyard at Newent.

The project provides students with the opportunity to get first-hand experience in all aspects from supply chain management and new product development, to sales and marketing, as well as out on our six-acre vineyard, helping them to develop their enterprise and employability skills.

In addition, proceeds from the sales of both the canned and bottled wine support RAU students to start their own businesses via the University’s award winning Enterprise Programme and proof of concept funding.

Martin Fowke, who has been wine maker and production director at Three Choirs Vineyard since 1989, studied at the then Royal Agricultural College before diversifying and specialising in wine.

He said: “I am particularly pleased to see the award for the RAU. As a former student I feel a strong affinity with the University. The youthful exuberance shown by students that get involved with this social enterprise project comes through in the wine and this award is well deserved."

The wines were judged by a panel of nine expert judges, chaired by Master of Wine and TV presenter Susie Barrie, and Oz Clarke OBE, one of the world’s leading wine experts, at Exton Park Vineyard in Hampshire last week.

The winners were announced today (24 June 2022) during English Wine Week (June 18 – 26) and the awards will be presented at the WineGB Awards Ceremony and Lunch at Drapers Hall in London next month.

Co-chair of the judging panel Susie Barrie said: “We were absolutely thrilled with the quality of the whole range of wines that we tasted this year. There were some fabulous wines in both still and sparkling style categories, which shows just how exciting and dynamic the UK now is as a wine region.

“What’s terrific is that the wins come from both the largest producers and some of the smallest, and from long established to newcomers. We’ve also awarded medals to wines from every region in the country, showing the scope of styles and grape varieties. Huge congratulations to all the medal winners!”

WineGB (Wines of Great Britain Ltd) is the national body for grape growers and winemakers which holds its awards annually. The WineGB Awards are the leading awards for the UK wine industry and each year the competition attracts entries from the country's finest producers. This year saw the highest number of entries (326), from all over England and Wales, to the Wine GB awards with 11 new producers, including the RAU, entering for the first time.