The sun is blazing down, it’s a sizzling 13c, and the grape harvest is underway!

Such is life on a vineyard in North Yorkshire overlooked by the White Horse of Kilburn in the distance!

Tucked away down the quietest of country lanes at Upper Dunsforth, between York and Boroughbridge, is the family-run Dunesforde Vineyard.

Since 2016, the Townsend family have been producing award-winning wines, helping fuel the great reputation England now has for them, particularly its bubbles.

Head of wine Peter Townsend says the 4-acre site was previously horse pasture, but the land had the right characteristics needed- a slope to drain away the frost, was sheltered to make it a 1-2 C warmer, relatively low rainfall and good soil.

The family had lived in Tuscany, wanting to create a vineyard there, but deciding Italy wasn’t for them, they returned to Yorkshire, and after a search for a site, settled on Upper Dunsford.

They planted 6,000 vines of four different varieties: Bacchus, Solaris, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir Precoce. They make three still whites, a still red, three sparkling whites and two sparking roses.

Annually, some 10,000-12,000 bottles are produced, with it bottled in Staffordshire.

The most notable grapes are Solaris, their first to make a Michelin-starred restaurant- the Yorke Arms in Ramsgill in the Yorkshire Dales.

The vineyard’s sparkling white Queen of the North also won the 2022 Wine GB Trophy for the Midlands and the North.


The vast majority of the wine is sold onsite at its shop, plus the Dunesforde website (Dunesforde Vineyard), along with a select range of restaurants and hotels.

The family plan to expand production to nearby fields and create a winery, adding to the existing tasting rooms and wine bar, which is used for functions, tastings and events.

A mural recalls the history of the area, showing Roman Aldborough, a major settlement in Roman Britain.

When the Press called on Thursday, volunteers were helping with the harvest for a few hours that morning, rewarded with lunch and bubbles.

York Press: There are four acres of vines

Among them Kate Stephenson of Marton-Cum-Grafton said she found it therapeutic, and she met many lovely people.

Amanda Stott of Knaresborough also enjoys the harvesting, adding it is satisfying to enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Mark Bailey added: “Who would have thought a few years ago, you would be picking grapes in North Yorkshire- one of the benefits of climate change. It’s great to be part of a community of grape pickers. You make many friends and enjoy a superb glass of Queen of the North afterwards.”

But will 2023 be a good vintage?

Peter says the summer was wetter than preferred, but “we should produce some great wines this year.”