Sible Hedingham: New vineyard’s bumper grape crop
- Credit: Su Anderson
A farmer who has diversified into wine-making is celebrating a bumper crop of grapes.
Angus Crowther, of Tuffon Hall, Sible Hedingham, near Halstead, who farms around 1,000 acres, planted four acres of vines three years ago on south-facing slopes.
These benefited from near-perfect growing conditions this year and have flourished under the watchful eye of vineyard manager Leslie Hardy, who has worked on the farm for 52 years. Vines take about five years to reach full maturity.
The four varieties of grapes - Bacchus, a still white wine similar to Sauvignon blanc, and three traditional sparkling wine varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier - produced a small crop last year which was made into a few hundred bottles of wine under the Tuffon Hall label. This year Angus hopes his nine tonne grape harvest will produce a few thousand bottles which he will sell to local pubs, restaurants and tourist venues.
“We had a cracking harvest due to a mild winter with little frost and then no bud damage in spring,” said Angus. “We had a small crop last year but nothing like what we had this year.”
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On a couple of occasions, though, when frost threatened the crop, Leslie was out at 4am, dragging flaming bales around the vines on a tractor in order to keep it at bay.
“He’s very particular. He’s got a good feel for it,” he said. “Some people lost quite a bit to frost, but on the whole we have been quite lucky.”
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A nice dry September was crucial during the ripening period, said Angus, who added that a quarter of the crop is Bacchus, which has already produced some “delicious” wine.
The traditional sparkling wine made last year spends a year in the cask and a year in the bottle before it is ready for drinking.
“I’m focusing on quality, not quantity,” said Angus, who plans to plant more vines.”We are very happy.”
He decided to grow vines because of his passion for the countryside and for wine and in order to diversify the business into a different income stream.