One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is getting to experience first-hand the passion, grit and determination that goes into running the respective businesses and brands I meet.
Esme Crowther and her husband Rupert are no exception. Their passion for their wine is undeniable. They only started planting in 2010 and what they have managed to create from their stunning farm nestled at the foot of the South Downs is truly exceptional. Their ‘Bacchus’ white and ‘Blanc de Blanc’ ‘English Sparkling Wine’ can rival the best wines produced in the county, and I have no doubt that we will see big things from these guys.
I went to meet the couple at their base in Poynings and we had the pleasure of touring their picturesque farm and learning a little bit more about what makes their brand so special.
Many aspiring winemakers will want to know- Once you had decided to use some of your land and create a Vineyard, what was first on the agenda?
Rue went on the ‘Principles of Vine Growing’ course at Plumpton College – this covered all the in-depth processes and complexities involved throughout the year in the vineyard; from trellising to winter pruning, disease prevention to canopy management and more. This new knowledge combined with 25 years of experience in agriculture enables us to produce top quality fruit for our wine.
Creating the vineyard had long been discussed over family Sunday lunches but it was the perfect positioning of the land itself that really provided the impetus to establish the vineyard. Planting was an amazing day – funnily enough the wedding day of William and Kate in April 2010! We had a specialist team from Germany come and plant all of our 8500 vines within 2 hours! Although extremely exciting we quickly realised the enormity of what we had taken on after it took us days and sore hands to place supporting canes with each vine!
From the early days we have had the support and advice of Kevin Sutherland, head winemaker at Bluebell Vineyard Estates where our wine is made. Having access to a state of the art winery and a wealth of technical knowledge when you are starting out as a new, small enterprise has been invaluable. We continue to work in a close partnership and as time passes we are able to influence more and more in which direction we want to take our wine.
Can you give us a brief idea of the timescale that it has taken to produce your own wine?
We planted the vines in 2010 and our first harvest was in October 2013. This was a tiny harvest as the vines were still establishing themselves and our 2013 Blanc de Blancs is one of our first releases just recently – so yes it takes a long time…….but it is of course well worth it!
Have you ever questioned the process or journey that you have gone down to start producing wine?
There is always a little bit of that. It is very hard. You put all this time and effort into producing the very best grapes you can, and then it just doesn’t always go to plan. We are becoming ever more aware of how this industry is one of highs and lows, and that ultimately, you just have to roll with it.
We really want to embrace the size of our production here. It is an extremely small vineyard but we are extremely passionate about what we have started, and of the journey. The reality of being part of this amazing industry is that things happen that you can’t control, you just have to do your very best with what you have got, and if it doesn’t work – you try again.
We have realised how at the ‘whim of nature’ you are with a vineyard – it really is a rollercoaster experience as we found out with frost decimating the 2017 vintage followed by the absolutely bumper harvest last year. We really want to embrace these variations and challenges and let our wine reflect them and the fruit speak for itself. We’ll have to see what 2019 brings!
We absolutely love your branding- can you tell us more?
We thought this would be such a fun part of setting up our business, but we discovered branding again comes with it’s own pitfalls. We enlisted the help of Will Parr from ‘Studio Parr’ who did a brilliant job of fulfilling our brief; to encapsulate the South Downs in an artistic, classy and distinctive way. They have been really well received; we especially love our ‘PG’ circular logo which we hope everyone will come to recognise in the not too distant future!