Grange Estate Vineyard
Throughout 2017 we visited the family-run Grange Estate Vineyard in Hampshire to document their year from pruning through to harvest.
The 30-acre vineyard in Burges Field on the Grange Estate was planted in 2011 with root stocks and clones of Champagne varieties Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay from the Comtat nursery in South West France. Planted using a GPS system the lines travel down the field in orderly regiments with 5,000 vines per hectare.
When harvested the annual yield is taken to a local, well-established winery (with whom Grange Estate has a swap-deal) where the majority of the grapes are used for their own production and the rest is bottled for the vineyard. There are around 5,000 bottles in store for Grange Estate from the 2015 vintage with another 7,000 or so from last year’s harvest. The aim is to increase the vineyard’s yield and bottling capacity by 1000-2000 bottles per year for the next 5 years, with its first own brand English sparkling wine going on sale in 2018.
The English viticulture scene has come a long way over the last half-century since the first commercial vineyard in recent times was planted in 1951 at Hambledon in Hampshire. Since then Hampshire and its surrounding counties have gradually but firmly established themselves as being at the heart of English winemaking country.
Vineyard owner Zam Baring tells us more:
Why a vineyard?
The decision to plant a vineyard was driven by three impulses: the need to develop more diversity on the almost entirely arable family farm; the belief that climate change is making the south of England a very interesting place to grow grapes; and, perhaps most importantly, the desire of all four siblings to work together using the skills each had accumulated in their individual careers, to create something of which they could all be proud of, cultivated from the fields of their collective childhood.
Why Burges Field?
The softly contoured downs of southern Hampshire lie on exactly the same cretaceous chalk that gives Champagne its reputation and, after testing the soil structure at a dozen different sites the family decided that Burges Field was the best place to begin planting. It slopes gently southwards which maximises exposure to the sun, it is sheltered from the prevailing south-westerly winds by a stand of majestic beech trees and, at no more than 150 feet above sea-level, it shouldn’t suffer too badly from potentially crippling spring frosts.
For the last 150 or so years the field was sown on a rotational basis with oats, malting barley, milling wheat, oil seed rape, and fodder peas, beans or turnips but, in 2011 that all changed when, after some deep cultivation to break up the subsoil, 52,000 vines were planted every 1.2 metres in rows 2 metres apart. We chose the classic sparkling varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and we chose two or three different clones of each variety that each in turn have different tolerances of variations in soil and climate. The proof is obviously in the drinking and the first wines are not yet quite ready but the signs are certainly positive.