Meet Umut and Katie Yesil. A dynamic husband and wife team still in their 20s with big ambitions to make world-class premium still wine from Essex, England. Just a few years ago they were running a food and drinks PR business, living in a flat just off bustling Brick Lane in East London. Today they are amongst the wine industry’s youngest, newest and most exciting English wine producers.
Riverview Crouch Valley is a vineyard in the renowned Crouch Valley wine region of Essex set in 11 acres of south-westerly slopes overlooking the beautiful River Crouch in Essex.
It was established in 2017 after several kitchen table conversations with Katie’s father Billy – a third generation arable farmer.
The plan was originally to make English Sparkling Wine and they planted accordingly. 45% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Meunier. But when the 2020 harvest came in their viticulturist, the legendary Duncan McNeill told them: “these grapes are too good for sparkling wine – they have so much ripeness they need to be in a premium still wine.”
Today they produce tiny quantities of English Sparkling Wine and still English Chardonnay and English Pinot Noir with their winemaker, the superbly talented Sarah Massey, from Lyme Bay Winery. In just a few short years they are already receiving critical acclaim. In the 2023 Vineyard Show, critic Matthew Juke picked Riverview Crouch Valley 2021 Pinot Noir as one of his top wines to represent the best of English winemaking.
They may only be making a few thousand bottles a year today, but they have capacity to make 25,000 bottles from their current vineyard. Walking through the vineyard Katie tells me: “There are so many opportunities. We could plant another 11 acres and maybe have a tasting room on the top of that hill. Or there is another spot by the river. No houses around. Stunning – great site for hospitality. Umut has grown up with hospitality. Before I met him, he wanted to run a wine bar. Wouldn’t it be amazing if he could get that wine bar in the end.”
“When we planted the vineyard in 2017 there wasn’t much to talk about Essex wine or Essex grapes at all. Then Covid happened and it just blew up. People were contacting us about the grapes. It feels like it happened over night.”
And it’s not just Essex, but Crouch Valley in particular that has got so many people excited.
That’s because the Crouch Valley offers an incredible grape-growing microclimate. It’s a warm area with low frost risk as it benefits from its close proximity to the river. And Riverview Crouch Valley is the closest vineyard to the River Crouch of all.
The region is dry with lower rainfall than most other parts of the South East of England.
And it has London Clay. Marasby Co-founder Simon Huntington visiting in autumn 2023 notices just how sticky and wet the soil is. This helps it hold plenty of mineral ions and as a result it’s fast becoming recognised as one of the best soils for growing ripe grapes for top quality English still wines.
There is something special about the fruit in Crouch Valley. Slightly warmer and dryer than the rest of the country it’s established a reputation for succulent, ripe grapes that make characterful wine.
Riverview Crouch Valley Pinot Noir is an elegant and poised wine packed full of summer fruits and has a lovely long finish. It’s one of THE wines of 21 and there are just a few bottles around, so snap some up while you can.
English Pinot Noir is a very versatile wine. As this is more full bodied than most English Pinots from 2021 it can handle a ripe, mature cheese such as Baron Bigod. Equally good with lamb or woodland winter mushroom dishes.
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