Wine 'mistake' results in top award

OVER the years, winemaker John Kemp has become something of a perfectionist. Like most people, he takes great pride in his work, and likes nothing more than seeing the fruits of his labour.

OVER the years, winemaker John Kemp has become something of a perfectionist.

Like most people, he takes great pride in his work, and likes nothing more than seeing the fruits of his labour.

So when an error occurred whilst experimenting with a new batch of raspberry wine, he was left with a feeling of dismay.

But six years on, the fruity tipple that began life as an “embarrassing mistake” has actually won the 66-year-old a prestigious award.


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Mr Kemp, the former owner of Giffords Hall, in Hartest, near Bury St Edmunds, decided to set up a winery on the outskirts of the village after taking semi-retirement in 2004.

As well as indulging his passions for canoeing and gardening, he now spends his time making grape wines, liqueurs including Sloe gin, and a whole host of delicious fruit wines made from raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and elderflowers.

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And Kemp's Wines Raspberry Sparkler has recently bagged Mr Kemp first prize in an annual competition run by the National Fruit Wine, Mead and Liqueur Association.

“I have been making a still wine from raspberries for about six years, but during an early batch something went wrong with the filtration plant, and yeast got into the bottles,” said Mr Kemp, who lives in Hessett, near Bury, with his wife, Jeanie.

Mr Kemp soon started receiving phone calls from customers, informing him the wine, which had re-fermented in the bottles and had turned fizzy, was causing corks to pop.

But rather than causing people to complain, the Champagne-like fruit wine became an instant hit.

“It was very embarrassing, but people seemed to love it, so we decided to deliberately produce a sparkling raspberry wine,” said Mr Kemp, who spent 20 years building up the success of Giffords Hall until it became one of the areas leading vineyard tourist attractions.

The fizzy wine, which takes two years to produce, is now sold alongside his other produce at venues throughout the region, including the forthcoming Suffolk Show.

Despite only getting his winery up and running at the beginning of the year, Mr Kemp - who is one of the few remaining winemakers to crush his grapes using his feet - expects to sell around four to five thousands bottles of grape wine, the same amount of fruit wine, and six to seven thousand bottles of liqueur every year.

“It is always nice to win a competition - you may think you are making the best wines, but unless someone else thinks you are, there is no kudos in it,” said Mr Kemp, whose non-sparkling raspberry wine and Sloe gin both won silver medals.

“When I set up the winery, I wanted to concentrate on making the wines and liqueurs that I enjoy, and my aim was to make everything I have done in the past but on a smaller scale,” he said.

“I loved my time at Giffords Hall, and although I felt it was time to leave, I couldn't imagine doing nothing all day - some men have their garden sheds, and I have my winery.”

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