We own two vineyards in Kent. The vineyard at Tenterden is the home of Chapel Down. The vineyard here encompasses 23 acres of vines planted on south-facing slopes on a free draining clay loam over sand soil which enables us to successfully grow grape varieties as diverse as Bacchus, Pinot Noir, Dornfelder, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay. Visitors to the Chapel Down Winery are invited to wander in the landscaped grounds, herb garden or vineyards themselves. If you would like to know more, you can book onto a guided tour to learn about the history of English Wines and the challenges of growing grapes in a cool climate. Call 01580 766111 for information.
Our second owned vineyard is the majestic Kit's Coty site just off Bluebell Hill near Aylesford in Kent. The vineyard is given over exclusively to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir sparkling varietals and is the finest site we have ever seen for "Champagne" style grapes. The gentle south facing slopes are on the North Downs below Pilgrims Way and have a high chalk content, good drainage and a glorious aspect. We have planted 75 acres on this 112 acre site so far. The first crop was harvested in 2010. We do not currently allow visitors to the site here as we have no facilities there to accommodate guests.
We source the majority of our fruit (in common with Champagne producers and the New Zealand wine industry) from professional growers across the South East. We work closely with these partners to maximize the quality of the fruit that will arrive at the winery in October. These vineyards are in Essex, Kent and Sussex and produce grapes from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for World class sparkling wines to Bacchus, Pinot Blanc and Rondo for fabulous, distinctive still wines.
There appears to be mounting evidence to suggest that Global warming will have a significant impact on our future climate here I England. Indeed, every degree of warming that occurs moves the "growing envelope" about 270 Km further North. That places Tenterden roughly where Epernay once was climatically speaking...
Our viticulture team work closely with the winemaking team through the seasons to ensure the highest quality fruit is produced from all our vineyards.
The vineyard year...
The vineyard calendar in England is the same as any quality European vineyard, although slightly later.
After harvesting and during the winter months the vines become dormant and rest. In this period, usually in December, January and February we prune the vines. This is a vital stage because precise, well executed and planned pruning will determine the yield of each and every vine.
In Spring, as the weather slowly warms the vines and the sap starts to rise we take our first nervous looks at the forecasts to ensure that we can protect the vines against frost which may occur. Good sites well planted and planned are the best defence, but we can and do use other methods.
During May budburst occurs labour-intensive task known as bud-rubbing takes place. Its not quite as much fun as it sounds. By rubbing off new bud growth the vineyard team are restricting the growth of each vine and concentrating the vigour towards the main growing canes. This will determine the number of bunches of grapes each vine will produce in the season.
In June, around Wimbledon fortnight, we start to pray for good weather. At this crucial time the vines start to flower. As hermaphrodites they self-pollinate and so still, warm weather is perfect. A good flowering and decent Wimbledon weather will see the embryonic grapes set during July. Aside from late Spring frosts in April and May, we can be very occasionally troubled by freak summer hailstorms.
However, vines are very deep-rooted, vigorous and hardy plants. During the growing season - if they were left unmanaged by a skilled team - they would attempt to grow by producing vigorous shoots and a dense leafy canopy. This is not where we want to focus the plant's energy. We want the vine to push its energy into the grapes. Throughout the summer you will see the teams regular trimming the vine leaves and tucking them into the trellis wires to allow the maximum amount of mildew-busting air and energy-rich, fruit-ripening sunlight to reach the gradually ripening precious fruit
The grapes benefit from as much summer sun and warmth as possible and particularly important is decent warm and dry weather into September for the final ripening of the fruit.