British wines are winning worldwide plaudits — so is the time ripe to buy a vineyard?
sHOULD you be raising a glass of wine this weekend, the chances are it will be French, Spanish, Italian or New World — but what about giving English a try? Better still, why not produce your own?
To some, this sounds far-fetched, but for the Haywood family in Worcestershire, it’s reality. Since summer 2017, Bev and Tim Haywood have owned the Astley Vineyard in Stourport- on-Severn in north Worcestershire, which they run with their daughter Daisy, son Chris and his wife Matleena.
It’s small — just five acres — but it’s one of the oldest vineyards in the UK, and the family have given it a new lease of life.
Within seven months of moving in, they refurbished and rebranded — and now the vineyard produces 9,000 bottles annually. Bev says: ‘Tim and I were accountants, in our 50s, and looking for a project. We wanted to work outside and had lived in the area for 20 years, so when the vineyard went on sale, we said: “Why not?” ’
Since running the operation, the Haywoods have added vineyard tours and ‘wine and dine’ events to draw in visitors and convert those sceptical of English wine — and create an extra income stream on top of wine sales. ‘ The customers are the best part,’ says Bev. ‘They are lovely, encouraging and interested. But anyone buying a vineyard must accept that there isn’t a day off, and some times of year — such as around now — are particularly busy managing the grapevines.’
In the UK, there are vineyards from Cornwall to North Yorkshire, and, even with volatile weather, a single vine in a good year can produce sufficient grapes to create at least one or possibly two bottles of wine — so, in theory, it’s easy to provide enough for family and friends even if you don’t want to become a commercial operation.
But the site and soil types are key for amateurs and professionals alike.
Now, the country property market is beginning to see growing numbers of people enquiring not only about quality farmhouses and rectories, but the land that comes with them.
‘The best sites are found on free- draining, gentle, south-facing slopes that aren’t exposed to strong winds or late frost, are not too high, and where average temperatures and sunshine hours are highest,’ says Nick Watson, from the land management team at estate agency Strutt & Parker.
‘The soil type and site characteristics, or terroir as the French say, is reflected in the taste of the wine.’
To do it on a large scale requires high initial investment, good organisation and expert advice.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, many amateur vineyard owners choose to work with an established winery at first, to turn their crops into a drinkable product. ‘ Engaging contractors who manage your vines, pick grapes and transport them to an established producer requires little of your own equipment,’ says Nick Watson.
‘However, if you undertake the husbandry, winemaking, bottling, cellarage and marketing yourself, then you will need to have all the equipment.’
THERE’S paperwork, too: most vineyards must be registered with the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
If you are not put off by the cost, red tape and hard work, you’ll be in the company of many growers who started from fairly modest beginnings.
Trevibban Mill, a charming vineyard near Padstow in Cornwall, started out a decade ago when its owner took early retirement and bought land to grow pistachios and hazelnuts; the seven-acre vineyard was an afterthought, but now its wine has won global awards and there is an additional orchard and
wine-tasting business. In Kent, a family who owned a 40-acre apple orchard in the Sixties diversified into wines, and now — 50 years later — the third generation of the family is running Biddenden Vineyards, making 80,000 bottles a year.
If you want evidence that the English vineyard is no longer a joke, just ask the likes of Taittinger and Pommery: these two French champagne houses have bought hundreds of acres in Kent and Hampshire to grow grapes.
The FSA says there are 700 vineyards in England and Wales, covering an acreage that has tripled in the past 20 years, and which produced 15 million bottles last year.
Trade organisation Wine GB says some two million vines are set to be planted in 2019 alone and predicts that the current 2,000strong workforce in British vineyards will expand to between 20,000 and 30,000 by 2040 — something to drink to in economically uncertain times.
Simon robinson, chairman of Wine GB, says last year saw British vineyards move into the big time.
‘As a sector, we’re bringing many developments in agriculture, tourism, education, investment and employment,’ he says.
‘This is now a thriving and confident British industry of which we can be justifiably proud.’
So, as you sip something this weekend, consider this: could you produce something better yourself?
THOSE of a certain age will remember hearing the clicking and chiming of clocks on mantelpieces. This is not something the younger generation experience — nowadays, they merely look at their mobile phones to find out the time.
but there’s been a shift, of sorts, with clocks becoming far more than simple timepieces.
‘Statement clocks can be used much like a piece of art, complementing the aesthetic of a room or adding an element of drama,’ says Emily Dunstan, home buyer at Heal’s, whose most popular clock — the Pluto Starburst Gold Wall Clock by newgate (£140, heals.com) — is a contemporary wonder, with its brasseffect dial and myriad triangles. ‘While a clock can be used on its own to create a focal point in the room, it can have just as much impact as part of a larger feature.’
The Yorkshire Furniture Company does this by encasing clocks under the glass of a coffee table, instantly marrying the need for something functional with attractive furniture (£229.99, yorkshirefurniture.co.uk). bramwell brown Clocks ( bramwellbrown.
com) are handsome clocks/barometers, where a steel-framed, easy-to-read face sits just above a series of moving, brightly illustrated panels that forecast the weather based on air pressure changes.
it is good-looking on the wall but, more than this, it is a multi-tasking hybrid that cleverly reinvents the analogue barometer with a modern-day spin.
‘We wanted to take the same charming, natural movements of a barometer, but make them all the more captivating and suitable for contemporary homes,’ explain brother and sister co-founders Rob and Sarah bramwell.
Turning time on its head in yet another twist is australian company Clocksicle ( clocksicle.
com), whose pretty and uplifting clock faces and numbers come in a range of white, pastel or rainbow shades. The jolly items are aimed at children — the dots for every minute helping them learn how to keep and tell the time.
CLEVERLY, Clocksicle clocks (£59, minideco.co.uk) are ideal for children’s bedrooms. Why? They are silent. ‘The business was born from my inability to find a decent wall clock for my children,’ says founder alison Oldfield. ‘They were either too adult, too big, didn’t have all of the numbers, or the designs were too childish. Worse still, most of them ticked loudly and kept my children awake at night. it’s important for children to be able to tell the time and manage their own.
‘Just looking at it on a mobile phone is not enough, as it doesn’t give them a sense of the passage of time and how long things take. Countless mothers have told me they bought clocks for their children, only
to have to take the batteries out at night to stop the ticking.’ Even in their most classic form, our need to have clocks gives an obvious opportunity to have fun with them. imagine a kitchen wall full of clocks — from antique and small, to minimalist and transparent — but one that would make your dinner party guests ponder which one was telling the correct time. among them could be Wayfair’s kitchenfriendly, multi-coloured clock made from cutlery, (£20.99, wayfair.co.uk), or a reimagined railway station clock such as the Putney Wall Clock from Tick Tock Clocks (£ 99.95, ticktockclocks.co.uk).
in fact, in just one home, a modern kitchen might have a red-lED wall-read digital projection of the time, a hallway that bows to the grandeur of a tall grandfather clock, and the faceless Double Rings Desk Clock by nomon — which comes together with two thin, fibreglass frames (£619, heals.com) — ticking away in the study.
For those of us who continue to appreciate antiques, an out-of-use ‘punchin-punch- out’ glass-faced factory clock with visible pendulum can hang or doubleup as a sideboard for a touch of tradition.
‘no other objects have as much influence or make you get up and move so fast out the door,’ say Rob and Sarah, of bramwell brown Clocks. ‘So, if a clock can also be seen as a thing of beauty to adorn a wall or complete a room, then you’ve got it all.’