AN OXFORDSHIRE vineyard taken on “by accident” by its owners a decade ago, has been listed among the world's best, winning four prestigious international awards for its wine.

Almost 11,000 wines from 41 countries were entered into the influential Decanter World Wine Awards and two white wines from the Brightwell Vineyard, near Wallingford, caught the judges’ attention.

Crispin Dry 2008 won a bronze medal, while Bacchus 2008 was commended.

Two of the vineyard’s other wines – Bacchus and Oxford Flint have both received bronze awards in the International Wine and Spirit Competition.

Even The Queen has signalled her approval: Buckingham Palace has ordered four cases of wine for its celebrated wine cellar.

The results are further success for owners Bob and Carol Nielsen, who only decided to harvest the 14-acre vineyard because it came in the grounds of their house, bought 10 years ago.

The couple, who previously had no experience of winemaking, have seen a hobby turn into a second career, as they took on restoring the overgrown 14-acre vineyard to commercial production.

The vineyard, first planted 20 years ago, had been left untouched for several years, with weeds and 12-foot saplings growing between the rows of vines.

Mrs Nielsen, 53, said: “The kids were moving on, and I did not have a proper job, so we decided to give it a go.

“I knew about plants, although certainly not vines. And here we have 6,000 of them rather than one or two.”

Mr Nielsen, 52, an RAF Squadron Leader, said it had taken five years before the vineyard, on the banks of the Thames near Shillingford, was brought back to proper production.

He said: “It was a lot more work and a much tougher job than we expected.

“Like any agriculture, once it gets away, it takes a long time to get back again.”

He added: “It is very physical work. You have to be fit, and it keeps you fit.

“People have romantic visions of sitting on the patio sipping wine, but ultimately this is farming.”

And the couple are hoping that 2010 is going to be a vintage year.

The hot, dry summer has provided perfect growing conditions for the grapes, which will be harvested by a small army of volunteers in October.

Brightwell wine is on sale in 24 branches of Waitrose in Oxfordshire and surrounding counties, as well as farm shops and specialist delicatessens.

Speaking of the vineyard’s latest awards, Decanter’s tasting director Christelle Guibert said: “This is a fantastic result for UK wines, and further proof that home-produced bottles can compete at an international level.”