Notts Post: Hanwell Launches Sparkling Wine!

Lovely article in the Nottingham Post about the upcoming launch of our Nottinghamshire Sparkling!

 


Nottinghamshire vineyard set to launch first vintage

Hanwell Wine Estate’s sparkler to be unveiled in new year

By

Jeremy Lewis

 

10:24, 10 NOV 2017

UPDATED 10:25, 10 NOV 2017

 

The owners of Nottinghamshire’s newest vineyard will toast themselves in bubbles soon after Christmas when they launch their first sparkling wine.

William and Helenka Brown, owners of Hanwell Wine Estate, will unveil the results of their 2015 harvest knowing that even better could be on the way. While the “2015” is now bottled, the “2016” is steadily maturing and the recent harvest of 2017 has resulted in the biggest yield to date.

Why is that? “The vines are now five years old, and more established, the grapes are bigger and the quality of the bunches that have been allowed to develop is better,” says Helenka. “The summer could have been warmer but there was enough sun and enough rain.”

The fruits of the Browns’ labours, grown on eight south-facing acres at Hickling Pastures, are Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier and Chadonnay – the classic blend of Champagne grapes.

Helenka Brown and her husband William are partners in Hanwell Wine Estate (Image: Ian Hodgkinson)

Their core product cannot be described as Champagne but nowadays there is no shame in accepting the designation English Sparkling Wine: warmer weather, sympathetic terroir and technical expertise has produced bubbly that has won international awards, and French Champagne houses like Taittinger have been planting in the chalky South-East.

Kent, Sussex and Hampshire vineyards may be hogging the headlines, but climate change has pushed growing conditions further north and the Browns are determined to show that Nottinghamshire clay can do the trick.

Helenka can speak with confidence because she is the daughter of award-winning wine-makers Tony and Veronica Skuriat – creators of the delicious North Star dessert wine – whose vineyard in nearby Costock was once the most northerly in England; nowadays wine is made as far north as Yorkshire.

Helenka pays tribute to her father’s know-how. “What he doesn’t know,” she says … “isn’t worth knowing,” adds William, a former ITN crew member whose beats ranged from Downing Street to Beirut.

The two vineyards help each other out. Hanwell’s 2015 vintage, nearing the end of its secondary fermentation, is currently on the Costock gyro-palette, which with occasional movements automatically knocks the spent yeast down to the neck of each bottle. And when the pruning season starts after Christmas, William is likely to be applying his secateurs to the Costock vines as well as those at Hanwell.

Helenka and her husband William with the vines. (Image: Ian Hodgkinson)

Hanwell Wine Estate, approached through a short avenue of birches, extends to 35 acres, although only eight acres are currently planted. There is room for expansion, and the presence of tenant sheep ensures that adjoining fields will be pre-fertilised.

However Hanwell is about more than just English sparkling wine. It is the base for Rural Antics, a programme of creative craft workshops enabling visitors to learn or develop their skills in a variety of fields, enjoy a glass of Nottinghamshire wine with their lunch, and take home something of their own making.

The Browns secured EU funding to help convert one of the estate’s barns into a classroom, where courses include drawing, willow weaving, digital photography, floral essences, oil painting and food foraging.

“We bought the place in 2011 and planted the following year,” said Helenka. “Our friends asked when they could try their first glass of wine and I said 2018. They said, ‘but it’s 2012!’

“Making wine was always a distant dream and even now we have yet to sell our first bottle. Because the vineyard is so dependent on factors like the weather we wanted to find other ways of using the estate and bringing people in.”

Helenka and her husband William with the vines. (Image: Ian Hodgkinson)

Weather challenges can include spring frosts. One of the reasons the 2017 crop was so big was that the Browns have deployed a fan at the bottom of the slope to protect the Pinot Meunier grapes. Frost can be sucked downhill, just like water. But there are other challenges. Starlings, for instance, are particularly partial to a fat grape.

And overheads are high. A Champagne-style bottle heavy enough to cope with the pressure of sparkling wine, plus cork, foil and wire cage, puts £2 on the cost of 75cl of English sparkling wine. Throw in alcohol duty and the customer is paying the best part of a fiver before he has even popped the cork.

Add the cost of the time, materials and labour that go into producing a decent English sparkler and you may end up paying the same sort of money as you would for Champagne from Rheims. But as the wine experts keep telling us, the quality gap is closing.

For more information visit hanwellwine.co.uk.

Article from Nottingham Post |Journalist: Jeremy Lewis | Photography: Ian Hodgkinson

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