Our site, on the borders of West Berkshire between Hungerford and Marlborough, sits in the centre of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Our Southerly facing land, with terroir demonstrating many of the key characteristics of the Champagne region in its chalky substrate and elements of the Loire region in its tough flinty topsoil, make the ideal location to establish grape varieties that have higher-acidity levels and go on to make exceptional sparkling wines.
After a series of tests and no small amount of professional advice, our first order for 6,000 vines was placed. We opted for a mix of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (roughly a 4,500 1,500 split in favour of PN). After preparing the site, which included pollarding a run of Alders on the Easterly site boundary, we were ready for planting in May 2011.
After taking advice we opted for a high-graft root stock of vines and were mildly disappointed, having spent quite a few Euro's, when the vines arrived looking like wobbly sticks covered in a deep green wax! In true German efficiency, our planting team arrived from Germany, having flogged their way over in the Unimog that would be used to plant the vines, on time and ready to go.
Planting took nearly 3 full days and the end result was spectacular. German efficiency again resulted in a 3mm spacing tolerance and as you cast your eye over the new vineyard, the symmetry and sense of perfection was something to behold.
This initial 5 acre plot established with phenomenal success and we managed to take a full commercial harvest off the vineyard in 2013; harvesting circa 14tonnes of fruit in what was a good growing year. This crop went on to produce our now released Vintage 2013 Blanc de Noirs – more info of which can be found on the Our Wines page.
With the success we’d seen on the initial 5 acre plot, we turned our focus in 2013 to how we might evolve the concept. A decision was made to establish a further 2 acres of vines. This time we focused on different classic Champagne variety grapes – Pinot Meunier and Pinot Précoce. By adding some variety to the already established Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, we felt we had a greater ability to develop the character and flavours of the wines we already made. These varieties also offered an element of balancing risk in the vineyard. The Pinot Précoce, for example, traditionally harvest earlier than other varieties, therefore spreading our risk a little as well in the less good growing seasons.
Our vines are tended to by Jayne and Alison, who also manage the rest of our farm, predominantly comprising soft fruits and asparagus beds. The care and attention given to each individual vine through the year continues to amaze us all. A mighty effort indeed!
Running an English vineyard has brought about immense enjoyment as well as its challenges. One thing is for certain, and that is the future for English wine – which looks exceedingly promising!
We’ve chosen the iconic Red Kite bird of prey to feature as a key part of our branding. We see the Red Kites on a daily basis, circling the vineyard and looking for their lunch along the Bath Road. As a species that was only recently re-introduced into the UK, we feel it’s a very apt partner to the re-birth of English wine!