Stars of Vineyard Magazine’s October 2019 In Conversation feature, Dunesforde, a boutique, family-run vineyard in the Vale of York, has officially launched its first still white wines, grown from Bacchus and Solaris grapes. 

The wines were first unveiled to family and friends at the vineyard in Upper Dunsforth on Monday 7 October, and the Townsend family’s journey was then featured on the BBC’s The One Show at 7pm on Monday 14 October. In the first week since their launch, Dunesforde has already had to reduce individual orders to one mixed case of Solaris and Bacchus per person.

“The response has completely exceeded our expectations,” said Georgina Townsend, business development director. “With only 543 bottles of Solaris and 897 bottles of Bacchus produced in the first year, stock is running low quickly and we are therefore in the unusual position of having to limit orders to mixed cases.”

Established by the Townsend family, Dunesforde pursues their passion for a product that combines community, the environment, quality and craftsmanship. The family’s aim is to create outstanding cool climate wines of the highest quality with a distinct character in a location that challenges convention. 

Planting began four years ago, adjacent to the Townsend family home in Upper Dunsforth, following years of searching for the most suitable site for their new venture. During the four years since planting, the difficulty of producing wine in such a northerly location has proven a real challenge, with extreme variations in weather and mildew wiping out some of their grapes. 

Commenting on their North Yorkshire location, vineyard manager and eldest son James Townsend said: “While we are definitely on the edge of where it is possible to ripen grapes, we believe the challenging nature of our site and longer ripening produces more complex fruit for more interesting wines.”

James’ father, Ian Townsend, added: “Many family and friends thought our intentions were extremely optimistic. The site we chose is north facing, on the edge of a beck and is very fertile. Yet the experts had confidence, and in spite of these challenges, here we are; tasting our first wines and we’re delighted with the results and the feedback.”

Frances Atkins, chef director at the award-winning The Yorke Arms in Ramsgill, was one of the first to taste the wines and sang its praises. “The Solaris, in particular, I found so delicate and light yet full of character with its tropical flavours. The wine will really compliment a fish dish and we featured it in our recent English Wine Dinner at the restaurant.”

The four-acre vineyard is growing four grape varieties known for their suitability to wine production in the north – Solaris, Bacchus, Pinot gris and Pinot noir précoce. Being such a small site, the wines are extremely limited and will only be available from The Yorke Arms and direct from the Dunesforde website.

In 2020, Dunesforde will introduce five sparkling wines, including a Rosé, which are available to pre-order through mixed cases now. Like the still wines, these will have a limited supply.