Published: 12:00, 18 May 2014
While the countryside around Canterbury is increasingly being carpeted with solar panels, one couple is preparing to put the fizz back into farming.
Charles and Ruth Simpson already run a successful winery in southern France and are now planning to produce a new sparkling wine from their land at Barham.
This week they and a team of workers began planting the vines on a 28-acre plot from which they hope to produce 70,000 bottles of high quality bubbly a year.
They also have another 50-acre field which they plan to plant next year and could produce another 150,000 bottles.
The couple will invest up to £2 million in the business, called Simpsons Wine Estate, at Barham Court Vineyards, which will also create numerous new jobs when fully up and running.
They opened their first winery, Domaine Sainte Rose, in the Languedoc 11 years ago and have become skilled viticulturalists.
They produce around 360,000 bottles a year which are exported to 14 countries and sells here in shops like Waitrose and Majestic.
Charles said: “It will be wonderful to see the vines growing on the slopes instead of solar panels which seem to be appearing everywhere in the countryside.
“We chose this part of Kent because of the sunshine hours and free-draining soil type which we believe will be ideal for growing the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier variety of grapes we need to produce high-quality sparkling wine.
“This week we have planted a variety of root types to see which performs best and then will be best-placed to make judgement about planting our larger field next year.
“Unfortunately, wine production is a frustratingly slow business.
“It will be two years before we will be able to pick grapes and another two years for the production stage until we can pop the cork of the first bottle.”
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