New Forest Wine A visit to Brook Hill Vineyard.
The UK is a major consumer of wine but relatively speaking a minor producer, however, there are around 500 English vineyards producing in excess of six million bottles of wine in a year.
I had no idea there were so many, but I wanted to find out more, it turns out there are a few closer than you think and after a few enquiries I arranged to go and meet Ian and Amanda at Brook Hill Vineyard in the New Forest.
In 2012 Ian and Amanda Brown made the life changing decision to start growing grapes with a view to producing their own wine. A few weeks ago when the sun was still shining I went to visit them and have a look around their now thriving vineyard.
The couple realised that initially they would have to enlist some expertise in the field - James Dodson of Vine Works started the process by analysing the soil to determine what stock to choose.
Stock of 2500 vine sticks from Germany were planted by hand - helpers apparently blessed the vineyard with a bottle of wine when planting was complete. How lovely was that?
Ian explained that vines are a little like roses, in so much as you plant the root stock and graft on the grape varieties that you want.
This enables you to choose from the classic varieties, the 6 varieties in the vineyard are
Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Dornfelder, Ortega, Pinot Noir, and Bacchus that produces the biggest yield for still white wine.
It takes at least five years to establish a vineyard so that means you learn as you go, Ian, a scientist by trade attended several courses on pruning/harvesting and vineyard management at the agricultural college in Plumpton and will continue studying as the vineyard matures.
The couple do the vast majority of the work on the vineyard themselves from pruning at the end of May, harvesting and taking the wires down and pruning again over the Winter months.
Amanda said “It’s a Peaceful place to work, I tends to plug in my earphones and lose myself in a audio book or some music". Having spent time in the vineyard I can totally see her point.
Generally harvesting is done in the morning enabling whole bunch pressing to take place in the afternoon to prevent oxidation as much as possible achieving 350 kilos a batch.
The whole process is really interesting, I now have a new appreciation for how labour intensive it is, bottling and labelling all done by hand! It takes an afternoon to fill 500 bottles.
The Vineyard are proud members of The New Forest Marque, an organisation that recognises local produce which has been grown, reared, caught, brewed produced or processed within the New Forest.
Considering grape production only started in 2016 it's quite an achievement that Brook Hill is already receiving awards from The Wessex Vineyard Association and more recently all four wines in production received Silver or Bronze Awards from the Independent English Wine Awards.
I was lucky enough to try all four of the wines and at this point I should mention I am not a wine expert but found all four wines very drinkable the sparkling white in particular with its green apple and biscuity flavour will be something I'll be buying to share with my family at Christmas, it is a fruitier tasting version of Champagne.
Last year was a really good year for winegrowers, Brook Hill harvested a bumper crop all thanks to the beautiful summer, so 2018 is definitely one to look out for.
If you fancy trying this local wine, and I recommend you do, The Sett at Brockenhurst serve it, you can also purchase a bottle at Solent Cellar, New Forest Wines- Ringwood, Pages in Lyndhurst Forage in Lyndhurst and The Chateau, Cadnam.
If you want to keep up to date with progress at the vineyard follow Brook Hill Vineyard on Facebook.