Interview With Andy Mounsey – Velfrey Vineyard

16th April 2024

Interview with Andy Mounsey Velfrey Vineyard

Speaking with some of the most important and influential minds in the wine industry will take you all over the world, in this interview we’re travelling to Wales, where I speak with Andy Mounsey, who, with his family, founded Velfrey Vineyard, which is now a producer of some incredible award winning Welsh Bubbly. We’ll discover about his life in the industry, the future of the vineyard and his most memorable bubbly moment.

It’s Great To Speak With You, Andy, Can You Tell Us A Bit About Yourself & Your Journey Into The Wine Industry?

“My journey into the wine industry was a complete fluke! My wife, Fiona, and I have run a specialist publishing company for many years, producing magazines for animal feed manufacturers. We planned to continue with that business but wanted to re-locate to Pembrokeshire to be closer to the coast (we were in the Peak District in the landlocked county of Derbyshire whereas Fiona had grown up by, and longed to return to the sea). We thought, what fun it would be to buy somewhere with a small parcel of land so that we could keep a few sheep. That was a stupid idea! Sheep are always looking for ways to do themselves harm, as we found out! So after two years of being failing ‘sheep farmers’ (if keeping 20 sheep counts as farming), we were looking for something else to do with the land. We’d tried a Welsh wine, loved it, and started to look into this as an alternative. By pure chance, it turned out our field, chosen simply so that we could have a few pet lambs, was absolutely perfect for a vineyard. A sheltered, south facing slope, not too high above sea level or too close to the coast, it ticked every box. Eight years after making the decision in April 2016, here we are. We planted in May 2017 and haven’t looked back since!”

What Inspired You To Create Velfrey Vineyard, and Start Producing Your Own Welsh Sparkling Wines?

“The inspiration, as mentioned above, was tasting Welsh wine! In fact, this was a still white wine produced by Jabajak vineyard in Carmarthenshire – totally delicious! Focussing on sparkling wine was really a business decision, first and foremost. We wanted to specialise in one area rather than be a ‘jack of all trades’. While it costs more and takes longer to produce, sparkling wine usually sells at a higher price. It invariably improves with age, whereas some still wines are best drunk young, and we thought this would take some of the pressure away as we were building up sales volumes from a standing start. We also thought we could grow varieties which would suit our conditions and were known for making world top quality sparkling wine. And so it has proved. Our Velfrey NV, for example, has just been chosen as a Top 100 UK Wine by WineGB, one of just a handful of non-vintage sparkling wines to receive this accolade.”

Andy, Fiona, Sophie and Ryan Mounsey

Andy, Fiona, Sophie and Ryan Mounsey

What Has Been Your Hardest Obstacle To Overcome In Producing Welsh Sparkling Wine?

“Patience! It takes a long time, doesn’t it! But can’t be rushed. Other than that, the obstacles have been relatively straightforward to overcome. We have tried to approach things methodically and focus on using low intervention methods compatible with keeping the vines healthy and maximising ripeness. We are very lucky in Wales to have support from the Welsh Government and, using this, we’ve undertaken training to hone our skills in looking after the vines. We prune them appropriately to target quality and we use a mixture of canopy management and natural products like plant tisanes, compost teas, seaweed, orange peel – even Epsom salts – to keep them healthy and happy. We strip the leaves away from the grapes to expose them to sunlight and air and we harvest late to ensure maximum flavour. It’s a lovely mix of art and science and, luckily, it seems to be working.”

How Do You See The Future Of Welsh Sparkling Wine?

“In a word – bright! We have a distinct offer in Wales. Essentially, by choosing varieties which suit our climate and with a focus on minimal intervention, healthy vines and ripe grapes, then using traditional methods, we are able to produce the wine from those grapes which is deliciously diverse and different. We even have the Welsh language to help us convey that our wines have a distinct sense of place. For example, our rosé vintage sparkling wine is called ‘Rhosyn’ which is Welsh for rose, while our Velfrey NV is described on the label as Gwin Pefriog Sir Benfro, which translates as Pembrokeshire Sparkling Wine. By pushing forward with this distinctly different offer, always with a focus on provenance and quality, I believe the future for Pefriog (Welsh Sparkling) is bright indeed.”

What Part Of The Wine Making Process Do You Enjoy The Most?

“I love tasting at the winery, discussing with the winemakers, and making decisions about how the wine is progressing. But nothing beats that moment when you’re tasting with customers and you see their faces light up when they take that first sip. Usually, their first word is ‘WoW’, which, appropriately enough, stands for Wine of Wales!”

Where’s The Most Memorable Place You’ve Enjoyed A Glass of Bubbly?

“I could say Velfrey Vineyard, Pembrokeshire, Wales. Overlooking our vines and tasting the first ever bottle of Velfrey. But maybe that’s too unique to us. So, how about on the top of the Empire State Building, New York City, on the occasion of our Silver Wedding Anniversary, in 2012. If you’d told me then I’d be drinking my own Welsh sparkling wines less than 10 years later, I certainly would not have believed you!”

Thank you, Andy, for sharing your story and experiences with us and we at Glass of Bubbly wish you the very best for the future!

Photo Credit belongs to Andy Mounsey, Glass of Bubbly was granted permission, to use them.

Oliver Walkey

Champagne and Sparkling Wine Writer, Focused on Bringing the Exciting and Fascinating World of Bubbly to You.