Putting down roots at one of Kent’s youngest vineyards has proven a challenging yet rewarding exercise for two growers on a mission
The mission of Richard Jebb and Justin Price stated in October, 2009 to develop the Colliers Green vineyard at Cranbrook, Kent as Kent Vineyard is daunting: to create an unpretentious, self-respecting vineyard; producing quality grapes, for quality wines.
Time will tell if they achieve this mission goal, but for the moment Jebb knows that mission accomplished is still a way off. He says: “We were very happy with the quality of the grapes this year, but there is still a lot to do before we would say the resurrection of the vineyard is complete.”
Jebb, a writer, and Price, a landscape gardener and fence contractor, have brought the vineyard back to life at a time when English wine could be seen to be in the ascendance.
Jebb says: “There’s no doubt it’s an exciting time for English wine at the moment which Justin and I are just discovering. There’s much scope for the industry to prosper, awareness is growing at home and respect is increasing abroad with English sparkling wines taking so many international awards. I personally love Bacchus wine, it’s almost irresistible, and I’ve met so many people that feel the same, so I agree with the popular opinion that the wine has the potential to become an English classic. In France they have Champagne, Italy Prosecco and Spain Cava, in England our sparkling wine is called ‘English Sparkling Wine’.
“It’s not a name that evokes emotion or passion, and I think we should do better. The wine deserves a name that matches its quality and character and I’d like to think in the future a fitting name will emerge.”
The vineyard was taken over with Seyval Blanc, Shoneburger and Bacchus varieties established.
Jebb says: “Over half our vines are Bacchus and we have planted around 100 additional vines of this variety, we would also like to plant more Seyval Blanc.”
The first harvest 2009 was limited to around three vines and probably weighed less than 20 kilos.
He says: “In 2010 we only took fruit from the Seyval Blanc, as our other varieties were still recovering from the severe pruning we gave them. That’s why we have called this year our first ‘real’ harvest and although still way under potential yield due to frost damage, we had more grapes to harvest than in previous years, and they were located in two vineyards, so it took much more work to harvest them all.”
Grapes are taken from a second vineyard. Jebb explains: “It’s all about the grapes. Until a substantial amount of replanting is complete in Colliers Green Vineyard, we will not be producing anywhere close to that vineyard’s capacity, so taking on a second site gave us the chance to up production immediately. Unfortunately due to the severe frost damage I mentioned before, this year the crop from both vineyards was substantially reduced.”
Jebb and Price acknowledge that this year’s harvest is so small that the wine produced from it will mostly be used to introduce potential customers to the wine. There will not be enough to warrant wholesale or off-license sales. The pair will hold another fair at the vineyard, like the one they held in 2010, which was highly successful, and will give people a chance to try and buy their wine there.
Springbok at loose in Kent
International wine making talent has been taken on by Kent Vineyard in the shape of Kobus Louw. South African by birth, he has set up a winery in Kent and is now in process of making the vineyard’s first wine, which he says “already has an interesting taste”.
Louw represents the fourth generation of his family to work in the wine industry and he has brought inspiration to the vineyard, especially in his passion for making quality wine that has integrity.
Jebb says: “I personally can’t wait to taste the wine he produces for us; I‘ve tried some of his other wines, so expectations are high.”
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