The vineyard takes up about 1 acre (0.4 ha) of a 2 acre field and now comprises around 350 vines. This is not as many as you would find in a newly planted vineyard, both because the spacing of the rows is wider than is now normal and every other vine was removed in 2002 to reduce over-vigorous growth.
The vineyard is 490 feet above sea level and faces due south, sloping gently. The soil consists of 9 inches of loamy rubble on top of solid chalk, which is fairly typical of the Chilterns. Vines do not need good soil.
It is owned by Antony and Carol Chapman who have lived in the house since 1979 and who planted the vines in April 1988. Originally, the vineyard comprised about 1 ½ acres with 1270 vines planted. Some have died and a third of it was grubbed up in 2008. So, there are 19 long rows left, 9 feet apart and 55 yards long and there are 9 short rows.
The original varieties, of which there were an equal number were Bacchus, Findling and Kernling (and it was the Kernling that was grubbed up). Bacchus is a cross of a Silvaner Riesling with Muller Thurgau and Findling is a Muller Thurgau mutation. They were chosen for their suitability for flavour, climate and soil. In the short rows, Antony and Carol planted seven other varieties as an experiment. These are Phoenix, Schonburger, Contessa, Madeleine Angeline, Orion, Chardonnay and two vines of Sauvignon blanc, donated by the well-known Henry Pelle vineyard in the Loire. All of the varieties are white grape varieties except the one plant (left) of Dornfelder which is a red wine grape.
All the vines are grafted onto different rootstocks so as to increase the possibility of avoiding the dreaded phylloxera.
The trellis system we use in the vineyard is known as the High Single Curtain. This means that the vines are planted in a single straight line, giving a single curtain or canopy. There is a single wire (in the case of most of the rows) 5 feet above the ground. The vines were originally planted 5 feet apart, growing up 5 feet and along 5 feet, like an inverted L. Where one died, the gap was filled by an adjacent vine, so that the vines have grown in two directions in a T shape and some are now 15 to 20 feet long.
Originally, the windbreak was planted in July 1987, comprising 75 Italian Alders on the west and south sides of the vineyard. These grew rapidly and so were reduced. However, they have now regrown to at least 40 feet and therefore not only serve their purpose as a windbreak, but unfortunately they also shelter the vines from the sun, particularly in the first three also rows.
It begins in January when we winter prune the vines, cutting off the growth of the previous year back to one or two buds along the length of the 10 foot or more cordon.
Nutrients and manure are normally added, depending upon the soil needs, in the early spring.
Bud burst, which usually occurs in late April or early May, is the first sign of growth and is followed by flowering a few weeks later and by veraison (the conversion of the flowers into grapes) in mid to late July. The job of summer pruning, to reduce the canopy, so that the sun can get to the grapes and the air can pass freely through the vines takes place in July and August and can actually be the most time-consuming of all the jobs during the year.
Throughout the growing year from May through to September, the vines are sprayed because of the high incidence of mildew in our cool climate vineyards.
The exciting bit comes with the vendange (i.e. the picking) which usually takes place in mid-October, the actual date depending on how well the grapes are ripening and on the weather. The earliest picking date has been October 1 in the latest, November 2. The ripeness of the grapes is measured in degrees of sugar content, which gives an approximate alcohol strength. This last year it was 9.5%, though it has been both higher and lower. The amount of the crop can vary hugely – the largest in recent years being 2.1 tonnes in 2006; the second being 1.25 tonnes in 2014. One of the smallest was 2016 with only 310 kg - a result of poor weather conditions (2015) and the heavier crops in the previous years.
It is difficult to be specific about the reasons for high or low quantities or ripeness, but the weather, specifically warmth and dryness both in the summer and the previous autumn, definitely has a big influence. We think it likely that the enormous crop in 1996 was largely due to the warm autumn in 1995 as well as the hot summer of 1996. There does seem to be a three-year pattern, so we are looking forward to a large crop in 2017!
The winemaking is now carried out by Vince Gower of Stanlake Park Wine Estate. He has 30 years of experience in winemaking in the UK. As we have the wines made specifically for us, the quality of the wine depends upon the quality of our grapes. Vince has his own award-winning wines from the Stanlake vineyard.
Please phone Patrick Hurd on 07740 858683 or Chris Dann on 07971 000001 or email to order.
NB for every bottle we sell, we have to pay duty to the government of over £2.08 for the still wine and £2.67 for the sparkling. In France the equivalent figure is less than 3p and 7p respectively!
Boddington East, Hale Lane, Wendover, Bucks HP22 6NQ
Masters House, Crocketts Lane, Lee Common, Bucks HP16 9JR