Food & Drink

Winding Wood Vineyard

Throwaway remarks can have unforeseen consequences.

As I sat with my good friend Robert having a sundown drink one summer in 2010 we gazed upon a flock of Jacobs nibbling away happily in our paddocks. Having been a farmer with many more herbivores under his care in an earlier life, Robert sympathised when I remarked that they were a lot of trouble for the return.

“Then why don’t you plant a vineyard instead – and then you can drink the results, ” he chortled.  It planted a seed and two years later, after hours of research and many vineyard visits, the fields were ploughed up, sub soiled (my word, the rubble we found) and 2,500 vines were hand planted into virgin soil. Oh, and Robert was roped in as my vineyard partner.

Roll forward five years and if you passed by the vineyard at the end of October you would have witnessed us plus a troupe of green-fingered volunteers patiently moving down each row of vines and neatly snipping off our first harvest of grapes.

Of course, English still wine has been around for years – in varying levels of quality and certainly nothing to match a good white Burgundy – but we are part of a new wave of English wine growers who are making English fizz using the traditional champagne methods (two fermentations).  In southern England we share much of the geology with Champagne in northern France; and terroir-wise, with chalk and flint, the soil is ideal for growing pinot noir and chardonnay grapes. Then add the perceptible change in the UK climate and you have the perfect (potentially, at least) growing conditions. Did you know that Tattinger has bought land in Kent to plant vines?

You do need the patience of Job and it is a good idea to start out on such an enterprise before you enter your 60s because it is a long hard road – five years at least – before you receive your first bottle of fizz.  At Winding Wood Vineyard we have two vintages maturing on their lees (bottles on their sides in contact with the yeast) at Hattingley Valley winery near Winchester, where we are fortunate to have Emma Rice (twice UK wine maker of the year) ably assisted by Jacob Leadley who are looking after our precious juice.  We plan to release our 2015 Winding Wood Sparkling in the latter half of 2018 and our 2016 in 2019. We can’t wait to pop the first cork (but, unfortunately, we’re going to have to).

For more information on Winding Wood Vineyard, click here

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