British wines are winning awards over blends from France and Italy. As the industry flourishes and quality improves our dreams of walking among the vineyards in our own vineyards will become a reality.

Fiona Walsh, Damian, and Fiona planted vines in 2005 on their two-acre smallholding near Saffron Walden in Essex. 

Four years later, their crops produced enough grapes to make 1,750 bottles fine wine. They are not the only ones who have seen a rise in the UK’s vineyard area over the past ten year.

Top pick: Willow House - a grade II-listed 17th-century home in Fressingfield, Suffolk, with six bedrooms and a vineyard - is on sale for £1.25 million

Top pick: Willow House – a grade II-listed 17th-century home in Fressingfield, Suffolk, with six bedrooms and a vineyard – is on sale for £1.25 million

“A lot of overseas buyers are developing commercial vineyards throughout the South-East of England. While hobby vineyards can make great retirement projects, says Ed Dixon, head, rural asset management at Knight Frank.

Fiona and Damian were first fascinated by wine-making in their early years of marriage while they were holidaying in Tuscany’s Chianti Belt. I

They decided to grow wine themselves many years later.

Fiona signed up for a course at Plumpton College, East Sussex, they hired a consultant to do soil checks, then planted the grapes that grew into their first vintage of rosé, red and white wines.

Damian describes it as’satisfying’, “like creating art that is alive and growing.”

The Walshes transport their grapes to an Organic Vineyard near Colchester where they can be crushed into wine or juice. They don’t harvest the grapes every year as it is a hobby and not a business venture.

But their thousands of bottles make them popular hosts.

 It’s so satisfying – like creating a piece of art that is living and growing

Damian Walsh, winemaker 

‘Our Pinot Noir 2007 vintage was the best,’ says Damian, who is now selling The Russetts, with its six-bedroom house, for £1.395 million via Cheffins.

“Mix it with prosecco. Add a raspberry on top. This will make the party go wild.

Vine cultivation is however not easy.

Jo Cowderoy is the editor of Vineyard magazine. She says that it is crucial to get expert advice. “You must create a business plan, understand stock holding and costs. This is a very complicated task.

Choice of site is vital — ones that have good drainage, south-facing slopes and are no more than 330ft above sea level are the most suitable. 

Unreliable British weather can lead to problems. Grapes require sunlight from April through May. Late frosts can spell disaster.

The best weather conditions can be found east of a line connecting Salisbury and Isle of Wight. This does not mean that vine-growing is impossible in other parts.

Carol Peett of West Wales Property Finders says that West Wales’ mild micro-climate and rich soil are ideal for vine growth. “Several small vineyards, such as the Jabajak or the Velfrey, have already prospered and I’m certain more will succeed,” says Carol Peett of West Wales Property Finders.

Penarth House in Newtown, Mid Wales, produces the classic Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes. Their sparkling wine grapes were created in 1999 and nominated by Decanter for a Bronze Medal in 2019.

The average yield of the vineyard is four tonnes per year. In good years, however, it can produce 12 tonnes. 

The eight-acre property includes the main house, a Jacobean grade II-listed grand Jacobean mansion with six bedrooms, and a large library. It’s on sale with Balfours for £1.25 million. 

The cost of opening a vineyard can be prohibitive. 

It is expensive to start a vineyard. It is expensive to start a vineyard. It takes three to four years for grapes to be picked, and two more years before wine can be made. 

Diversifying is a smart move. There are many vineyards that have cafes and shops on-site. Nearly all offer guided tours of the vineyards.

Tasting time: Many vineyards have shops and a cafe on site

Tasting time: Many vineyards offer tasting rooms and a cafe.

Woodchester Valley in Stroud offers wine tours and tastings from £18 pp, while the small, family-run Parva Farm vineyard in Tintern, in the Wye Valley, do a self-guided tour for just £2.50 pp. You also get a free tasting.

Willow House is a Grade II-listed 17th century home in Fressingfield. It has six bedrooms, a wine cellar, and an annexe. It’s on sale for £1.25 million.

The chances of finding a vineyard for sale for less than £1 million in Britain are slim. Jo Cowderoy in France is selling her seven-bedroom Maison de Maitre, and eight-acre vineyard, in Puicheric, one hour from the Mediterranean. 

The house is for sale for £270,000, while the vineyards are expected to make about £200,000 at auction.

Despite not producing any wine recently, Chateau La Bouscade was sold worldwide up to 2010.

Investing money in a vineyard is risky. So why plant grapes when you can grow vegetables?

Cowderoy says, “It is a celebratory event.” It is so satisfying to raise a glass of wine and remember the blood and tears that went into making it.

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