Vineyards in England are growing day by day. Vines are still being planted even this late in the season, in a rush to get them started on their long and fruitful journey.
To some people it still comes as a great surprise that England, and indeed Wales, have a new and thriving young industry in what, for vines, could be thought of as hostile territory.
Not at all, we actually have about 750 recorded vineyards in England. Not all are commercial, and not all are large designed enterprises. The terroir is not always chosen because it represents similar growing conditions in the French wine regions - many vineyards are planted on the land that was available to the grower at the time, they didn’t go looking for it.
For instance, Joyce Boulos-Hanna of New Lodge Vineyard in Earls Barton, had three horse paddocks adjacent to her home. When she started thinking about vines in 1999, she only thought of planting enough vines to give her something to do after downsizing and moving on to completely bare land. She had no idea she was planting a vineyard! How presumptuous! It did happen though and 20 years later it has become what many people call ‘a little gem’.
When Joyce first began her vineyard she likened response to a kind of ‘closed shop’. Very little was known about vineyards by the average person, there was very little publicity, and not a lot of sharing of experience.
Until she managed to find a friendly ear and started meeting members of the Mercian Vineyards Association, everything was a mystery and she just carried on reading her books, one relevant page at a time. She was not planning on becoming a professional, just correcting any mistakes and always looking forward.
Joyce didn’t have a business plan, just a passion to go on cultivating her vines with an ever-growing passion. It became a way of life and she claims that it has kept her young in spite of the seriously hard work. She can hardly believe that she is responsible for such an incredibly picturesque little oasis in the heart of Northamptonshire, giving so much pleasure to all the customers and visitors that come year after year, never failing to exclaim that they think they must have been transported to France or the slopes of Tuscany.
Joyce’s own passion has now become to have the slopes and hillsides of Northamptonshire covered with vines. She truly believes that Northamptonshire has excellent growing prospects that the ‘big boys’ down south would not even consider.
This was a case of fools rush in, because she learned later that red wine is notoriously difficult to grow in England. The Red Baron and the Regency Red, began appearing in 2014 and have been getting better and better, producing a wine of which the vineyard can be justly proud. The days of the family laughing at her early efforts planting vines when no one took it seriously are over, they are now ready to give their help in every direction, especially the drinking part.
Joyce fully understands this and the vineyard is all things to all people, visitors having a wine tasting for a hen party, an important birthday or getting married, not forgetting WI groups and even some corporate fun. Whatever the event, it is always dealt with professionally and given individual attention and most important of all with an eternally warm welcome.
This year was to be especially notable. Firstly, there was to be the first of two vineyard open days, to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of VE Day, followed by one to commemorate 20 years of the vineyard. One was cancelled, but there are still hopes for the second one later in the year.
Since Joyce went through the second World War herself she is anxious that those VE Day celebrations will still play a part even if it’s later in the year. There will also be tributes for today’s heroes, all the doctors, nurses, carers, and everybody who has helped to bring us through this time of crisis.
Find out more about UK vineyards at the WineGB Website, the mystery may be over but the romance and passion remain still constant!