The man from Chapel Down: Part 1 (English Wine)


The man from Chapel Down: Part 1

One advantage we have is that the vineyard is located fairly close to Chapel Down, England’s largest wine producer, known for its award-winning wines. Chapel Down is one of the wineries that has lead the way in English wine production, so it’s natural that when you are expecting to have grapes to sell and Chapel Down is on your door step, you contact them first.

We did contact them and to our surprise they asked if they could visit us at the vineyard. It seemed all too easy. Our little fantasy of running a working vineyard seemed to be approaching reality; Chapel Down would come, they would like us, and they would buy our grapes: perfect. Who could ask for more?

The man from Chapel Down that would visit us was Owen Elais, a well respected figure in the English wine industry, he came to see us on Monday 2nd November 2009.

We didn’t know what to expect from him. You hear a lot about ‘wine snobbery’ and we wondered whether he would look down on us for having a small, unkempt vineyard, which to some degree is still covered in overgrowth.

So we were more than pleasantly surprised to discover Owen was a very down-to-earth character, no sign of the snobbery we had feared; he was enthusiastic and more to the point helpful.

Encouragingly, the first thing he said when he saw the vineyard was, “I’ve seen worse.”

And he set about examining our vines. You could tell he had a passion for his profession by the way he snapped off overgrown bits of vine and closely eyed their interiors, waded across brambles to reach what is left of our Seyval Blanc grape variety, and happily tasted the grapes to test their flavour.

It was fascinating to watch and listen to him, and both Justin and I really enjoyed him being there. The three of us talked while walking around the vineyard for about an hour.

Unfortunately, what he said was not all good. It was a mixed bag of sound advice and stark commercial fact that brought our fantasy of running a sweet little vineyard back to reality with enough crush to squeeze the juice from 10 tonnes of grapes.

So now we are left with options to consider, and some serious planning to do.

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