Three village vineyards spring up

WINE lovers may no longer have to travel to the Loire Valley in France for a taste of the good stuff, as a trio of new vineyards have appeared in North Somerset.

From pinot noir to seyval blanc grape varieties, thousands of vines are set to flourish in three villages within 20 minutes from Weston.

Butcombe, Redhill, and Wrington are now home to row upon row of the varying fruit and a winery is set to open next year.

One man, who has just planted 1,751 vines on a gently sloping, south east-facing field overlooking Blagdon Lake, is 24-year-old surveyor Luke Ford.

The former Churchill Community School pupil enlisted help from about 50 friends and family to plant the vines.

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He hopes to harvest some of the crops in three years and in years four to five they will reach full cropping potential, allowing him to produce 4,000 bottles.

The Butcombe resident said: “While at Reading University studying building surveying, I visited a beer festival in Berkshire with friends where rather than tasting real ales, I came across a selection of English wines and tasted those instead.

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“The idea of diversifying the family farm began to grow, so I spent some time visiting a number of English vineyards and researching the topic before enrolling on a part-time course in viticulture.

“My friends think it’s great too.”

Luke is growing five different varieties of vines which were carefully selected to suit the site and its soil. They were shipped in from Germany and cost about �1.80 each.

The vineyard will produce red and white still wines as well as sparkling wines.

Luke added: “The UK’s sparkling wines are becoming extremely successful and at recent international competitions they have even beaten the top champagne houses.”

Chris Watts, of Redhill, bottled his first vintage this March and was able to produce 400 bottles.

He has more than 10,000 vines and once harvesting is in full swing he hopes to produce about 25,000 bottles of wine a year, including red, white, rose and sparkling.

He had sent the grapes to Shepton Mallet to be transformed into wine, but thanks to a grant from the now-defunct South West Regional Development Agency, he will begin building his very own winery in January.

This winery will also be used by Luke to produce his wine and there is another woman in Wrington who has also planted vines, says Chris.

Chris, who runs ACF Hospitality, said: “I have tasted lots of wines, some of the best South African wines too, but this English wine tastes really good.”

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