Award-winning East Anglian vineyard introduces new grape in 2018 planting

PUBLISHED: 08:31 07 May 2018 | UPDATED: 09:59 07 May 2018

Volunteers help protect the 11,000 new vines that have recently been planted at Flint Vineyard near Bungay.

Picture: Nick Butcher

Volunteers help protect the 11,000 new vines that have recently been planted at Flint Vineyard near Bungay. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2018

A winemaker on the Norfolk/Suffolk border has taken a punt on a new grape in its latest planting – in a year which will see it harvest its own fruit for the first time.

Among the 11,000 bacchus, pinot blanc and pinot noir vines planted at Flint Vineyards in Earsham near Bungay last month was a new addition – pinot gris.

This year will also see it harvest its first batch of homegrown bacchus grapes, after working with suppliers in Norfolk and Essex since starting up in 2016.

Last year saw the company scoop two awards: its bacchus 2016 was named East Anglian wine of the year and its pinot blanc 2016 scored a silver medal at the International Wine Challenge.

Hannah Witchell, who founded the business with husband Ben, said the choice to start growing pinot gris – which will not be ready to harvest for three years – fitted with its long term aims.

“We are really focusing on still wines and after seeing the potential for the pinot blanc we think there is further potential for another aromatic white wine,” she said.

The wet weather seen in April soon after the vines were planted had proved beneficial, Mrs Witchell said.

“Since we have had a lot of rain we will not have to water the vines in – we had to do that last year as it was very dry and it was quite an undertaking,” she said.

“Now we have got some sunshine to start bringing them on, which is really lucky. We may be a couple of weeks behind for harvesting as we have had a late start to the spring, but that is not a problem. It is just the late frost we don’t like!”

Mrs Witchell said the first harvest from its original bacchus vines would be “very exciting” for the couple, who are set to double production from 8,000 bottles to 15,000 in 2018, with plans to increase this to 25,000 in 2019.

“The demand for the wine is really taking off,” she said.

“We have space to expand, we just need more tanks. We could probably go up to about 50,000 bottles and we have space to plant more vines, so we are well placed to grow to that size.”

She added that the demand for the vineyard’s tours and tasting was continuing to grow, with new time slots introduced and the addition of lunchtime tours proving popular.

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