We had now just about reached the end of our 2013 English vineyard adventure, having no more non-wine related activities to engage in, we therefore aimed to finish as we started by once again getting amongst the vines, only now we had exchanged Devon for Kent and none other than the estate of Herbert Hall.
We came across Herbert Hall for the first time last year whilst we had been touring vineyards in Sussex and Kent. We noted that there were a couple of vineyards close to the village of Marden, one being Hush Heath Estate, which we also visited, and another simply titled as “Marden vineyard”. Intrigued, we got in touch and discovered this to be what we now know as, Herbert Hall, whose proprietor, Nick Hall, kindly agreed for us to visit and take a tour of his vineyard and winery.
A relative newcomer to the English wine scene, Herbert Hall was set up in 2007 with the first vintage released in 2009. These wines can now be found in some of the country’s most prestigious retail outlets and restaurants. All attention is focused on producing high quality Sparkling Wine, a Brut White and Rose, using the traditional method and made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.
We promised that we would be back in touch and having consumed one or two bottles of his fizz over the past year, we were keen to see if we could in any way get a little more involved. Nick welcomed our return and a chance for us to work amongst the vines, so here we were, towards the end of our trip but ready for some more vineyard action.
Nick had already hatched a plan of things that we could do and was intent that we should not simply be doing menial jobs for the sake of it. Instead, he preferred us to have the opportunity to take away some new experiences as well as being able to demonstrate those skills that we had already learned, which we can’t thank him enough for.
Over the next three days, we undertook various tasks in and around the vineyard and winery. Included was some tucking in and trimming, using our recently found knowledge to get on with the task with little intervention. We felt very privileged that Nick chose to join us for most of the three days in our company, where we spent many an hour chatting amongst the vines, in the winery or over lunch sat in the sunshine in the garden of his family home. We could not have been made to feel more welcome.
We were blessed again with amazing summer weather and when the temperature peaked at 32 degrees it felt like we could have been on a vineyard in the South of France.
In the winery, we got the chance to fill a cage with the 2011 wine ready for riddling by loading it onto the gyropalette. We also had a go at disgorgement, dosage and corking – great fun, though we must admit that we were better at some jobs more than others. Kel took himself off the crown cap opening and disgorgement after a couple of the bottle necks fractured in the process (eek)!
Nick was recently interviewed by The Wall Street Journal about his wines, which you can read more about here.
We also had the opportunity to meet Peter Morgan, Head of Winemaking at Plumpton College and co-wine maker at Herbert Hall. It was great to hear the views of two great wine makers and their advice to us has been of great value.
Peter invited us to visit the College so we could see the facilities for ourselves. We duly agreed that we would make a detour on our return schedule and head for Plumpton before heading back home the following morning.
That morning, we chose to set off that bit earlier so we could reach Plumpton with enough time on our hands to get home at a reasonable hour. This was a good decision as we encountered our second flat tyre of the trip!
Not to be deterred, we put this matter to one side and met up with Peter. Here, we were introduced to Chris Foss (Head of the Wine Department at Plumpton) whom Kel has had contact with over the past year or so in relation to undertaking possible courses at the college as well as help and advice about the English wine scene in general. It was great to actually have the chance to meet Chris in person.
Peter then took us on a tour of the vineyards and the winery. Plumpton has recently heavily invested in its wine education facility as we witnessed new buildings being constructed that included class rooms, laboratories and additions to the winery. The college also makes its own range of wines of which we had the opportunity to try their fizz at a local English Wine festival last year.
This drew to a close our English wine adventure. We were fortunate that our flat tyre was quickly fixed and we were able to make our journey home without further incident.
English wine has come such a long way in such a short time and we feel very confident about its future and no doubt we shall be back amongst the vines once again in the not so distant future.