Climate change may not be advantageous to everyone and it has created extra pests and diseases for agriculture, but it has also opened up a great opportunity to step into the ever increasing wine market. Vineyards are springing up around Rye. These new enterprises are only going to increase on the south sloping hills and valleys, as farmers adapt to this new crop, while other established vineyards expand to meet demand.
Although the Romans introduced wine growing to England, it was never very successful. The quality of English wine was always poor and only considered fit for Communion wine.
English wine was not taken seriously until the turn of this century. With the warmer climate of the South East, English wine has become a significant success over the last few years, winning major awards against its more illustrious foreign counterparts.
Chapel Down at Smallhythe, together with Gusbourne wines in Appledore, may have the advantage of size in this area at present, but Charles Palmer wines in Winchelsea and Oxney Organic Estate in Beckley are already expanding, along with several other farmers who are just starting to dabble.
Like many other farming enterprises, growing grapes is an expensive and long term commitment. Not only will it cost around £10,000 an acre to plant a vineyard, but patience is needed for a return on capital. It takes around four years before the vines produce an acceptable yield of grapes and then another two years for the wine to mature.
I can imagine the trepidation and excitement of opening that first bottle after such a long and costly wait. But what better way to finish a day’s work than looking over your own vineyard drinking your own wine It nearly inspires me to get the spade out and have a go !
First organic sparkling wine
Oxney Organic Estate, the winery and vineyard in Beckley, has launched Classic 2014, its first organic English sparkling wine. Oxney has already won medals for its still rosé and has established a distinctive house style of fruit driven, elegant and dry wines with great acid balance and texture.
The Classic 2014 sparkling wine, made by renowned winemaker David Cowderoy, is available at Oxney’s cellar door at the winery (Oxney Organic Estate, Hobbs Lane, Beckley, Rye, East Sussex, TN31 6TU) and online.
Classic 2014 is made from chardonnay (40%), pinot noir (30%) and pinot meunier (30%) using traditional methods. The wine spends a minimum of 20 months on lees and has a delicate and persistent mousse. 2014 was an excellent year at Oxney’s vineyard, which now covers over 21 acres and is the third largest organic vineyard in the UK.
The Oxney range includes a still white, still rosé and a classic cuvee sparkling. The English Pinot Noir Rosé 2015, made by the estate’s winemaker Ben Smith, won the top trophy and gold medal at the English and Welsh Wine of the Year Competition 2016.
The vineyard in Beckley was planted between 2012 and 2014 by Kristin Syltevik, who, with her partner, Paul Dobson, has established a 850 acre organic farming estate with a diverse range of activities from livestock and arable production to holiday cottages and the vineyard.
Photos: Oxney Estate and Charles Palmer Wines