Wine growing in Yorkshire is not new. The Romans certainly cultivated the vine this far north. The Cistercian monks at Kirkstall Abbey in Leeds had vineyards, although the exact location is unknown. The Benedictines at St Mary’s Abbey, York, had a well documented vineyard of around 10 acres at Askham Richard on the outskirts of the city and had been making wine successfully up to the sixteenth century.
We realised that site is all-important in England when setting up a vineyard. George had identified the 5 acre site at Leventhorpe when he had driven passed the field after a snowy day and noticed how its south-facing slope had caught the sun, allowing the snow to melt before that of fields in the surrounding area. He knew it was an ideal site for wine-growing.
The site is at a low altitude with an average elevation of 80 feet. It is a south facing slope of light sandy loam topsoil with sand and cracked sandstone underneath, leading down to the River Aire, protected by mature trees. It drains extremely quickly and warms up rapidly in spring, giving the vines some protection from the extremes of the weather.
Frost protection in spring is important, as the young shoots on the vine will not tolerate subzero temperatures. At Leventhorpe the site rarely suffers from spring frosts after the third week in April due to the topography of the land and its close proximity to a considerable body of water- the river, canal and lake.