Here at Lyme Bay Winery our philosophy is simple: we want to source the best grapes in England to make the most outstanding still and sparkling English wines. To do this, we work with premium vineyards in key locations including Essex, Dorset, Devon, Hampshire and Oxfordshire whose growers share our passion, ambition and dedication in nurturing the best English wines this country has to offer.
What makes English wine so good?
There are various factors which have contributed to the rising quality and awareness of English wine over recent years, namely education, experience, passion, and investment.
Where before leading wine educator Plumpton College graduates would have taken their experience and qualification to more traditional winemaking areas, they have increasingly either stayed or, even more positively, returned to England to put into practice what they’ve learnt elsewhere.
With the increased investment into the industry, quality of equipment, winery and people has increased, leading to more awards and interest, which in turn has led to better and more ambitious winemakers and viticulturalists applying for roles in an area which holds considerable potential.
Finally, with the English climate getting warmer, this country’s vineyards have seen a steady renaissance as rising temperatures further enable our growers to give Europe’s traditional wine producing regions some tough competition. It’s at this time of year that the buds turn into flowers and small bunches of grapes begin to grow, and our growers will be hoping for more good weather this summer to yield another fantastic harvest, as has happened in recent years – 2018 looking set to be one of the best vintages ever.
Meet the growers
One of our longest-running collaborations has been with Watchcombe Vineyard, which is only a couple of miles away from the Winery here in in Devon’s scenic Axe Valley.
A compact yet beautiful vineyard, Watchcombe is planted with 2000 mature Seyval Blanc vines which produce elegant and vibrant wines thanks to its Fox Mould Sand soils. A recent addition is a further 1000 young Seyval Blanc vines, just starting their third year and not yet productive, which are expected to thrive in the vineyard’s slightly elevated location.
Over on the other side of the country we also work with Martin’s Lane Vineyard in the village of Stow Maries near Maldon in Essex, from where we source Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Bacchus grapes. Established as a partnership in 2008 by a group of families and friends, Martin’s Lane Vineyard sits in 30 acres of steep sloping meadowland on the north side of the Crouch Valley – an area that regularly boasts the warmest summer temperatures and lowest rainfall in the country.
This setting provides the ideal location for cultivating the classic cool climate grape varieties such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Bacchus, but nonetheless the growers always keep one eye on the weather. “After one the wettest winters on record, April 2020 took over with a long-awaited period of sunshine bringing the first budburst in our Chardonnay around 9 April”, says partner Roy Martin.
“The settled weather still saw some quite low overnight temperatures in the middle of the month but the vineyard’s proximity to the wide River Crouch helped us once again navigate around any possible damage to the young growth in the vineyard. Not until the end of the month did we at last see some very welcome rainfall as the new season in the vineyard began moving ahead apace.”
Such is the demand for fruit from Martin’s Lane Vineyard that Roy and the team are currently setting out rows on the hillside and planting an additional 7,000 more vines in the coming weeks.
“Importantly, the rain helped ease the rapidly drying ground, allowing us to complete the ploughing and harrowing of our steep south west facing slopes in readiness for planting the new vines”, says Roy, “with soil conditions now ideal for machine planting of the specially selected Chardonnay and Pinot Noir clones which we hope will excel on this favoured hillside aspect and give us more of the high quality fruit for our classic varietal still wines”.
In the current challenging and changing times in which we all find ourselves during the coronavirus pandemic, Roy says the team at Martin’s Lane Vineyard is “fortunate in being able to organise ourselves and our valued employees safely whilst working in the vineyard environment”, and says they all “hope by harvest we will have begun to see some gradual return to normality”.
English Wine Week update
Readjusting timelines and expectations is something we are all having to do during the pandemic. With its regular focus on celebrating the rising success of wine grown and produced within the UK’s borders, English Wine Week is another date on the calendar that has made a shift.
Usually taking place at the end of May, this year’s English Wine Week has been rescheduled for 20th-28th June and will see outlets up and down the country, hopefully including our own cellar door Lyme Bay Winery Shop in East Devon, putting English wine front and centre with the aim of introducing more wine enthusiasts to locally grown and produced drinks.
Of course, if lockdown is still in place, growers and wine producers will be encouraging wine afficionados to explore their offerings online rather than in person at vineyards and shops, but don’t let that put you off trying something new.
Wine offer of the month
With our premium growers by our side, here at Lyme Bay Winery we continue to innovate and expand our exceptional still and sparkling English wines, and you can always check out our award-winning selection online here.
And while our wonderful Winery shop is still closed as we do our bit to protect our staff and customers from coronavirus, you can still buy all our delicious drinks online and take advantage of our fast delivery service – FREE when you spend £20 or more.
Photos courtesy of Martin’s Lane Vineyard