Nestling in a broad sweep of the Thames’s south side, Brightwell Vineyard near Wallingford is the working domain of Bob and Carol, Nielsen. First planted in the late 1980s and originally part of a wine cooperative, Bob and Carol took over from her father, Denys Randulph, in the late 1990s. The flinty chalk greensand and gravel of the Thames Valley provides ideal grapevine soil, while also being sheltered by the surrounding hills of the Chilterns, North Downs and Cotswolds makes the region one of the warmest and driest areas of the UK. The vineyard is the largest in Oxfordshire, covers 6.5 ha (16 acres) and grows eight varieties of grape including Bacchus, Chardonnay, Huxelrebe, Dornfelder and Pinot Noir.
The wines are made at nearby Stanlake Park under contract by Italian wine-maker Nico Centonze, who operates eco-friendly initiatives: solar power and water and waste recycling; grape skins go to feed the pigs that the Nielsens keep at their nearby farm. Bob follows a minimum intervention policy at Brightwell and is passionate about quality reflecting a style of natural winemaking but also refusing to be type-cast and preferring to focus on achieving the best quality possible in the English style.