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Tenterden's Chapel Down and its Curious Brewery in Ashford continue to deliver growth

One of the county's leading vineyards says it is committed to "substantial" investments over the coming years as it looks to make further in-roads into the wine and beer markets.

Tenterden-based Chapel Down made the pledge as it reported impressive sales and financial figures for the year ended December 31, 2018.

Sales of wine and spirits rose by 11% to £8.977m, while its beer and cider sales, through its Curious Drinks arm, jumped 10% to £4.039m.

Chapel Down's Kit's Coty vineyard
Chapel Down's Kit's Coty vineyard

And it is expecting to grow that further through both a bumper crop last summer and the opening recently of its Curious Brewery in Ashford.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) was up 18% to £1.14m.

John Dunsmore, chairman, said: "It was a busy year preparing the company for further growth. Some 388 new acres of prime vineyard land will produce up to 1 million extra bottles of wine per annum. Our gin and vodka have had critical acclaim and we have developed a new experiential brand home on the Regents Canal in the developing Kings Cross area of London.

The Curious Brewery in Ashford will act as Chapel Down's beer-making headquarters
The Curious Brewery in Ashford will act as Chapel Down's beer-making headquarters

"Our brewery building, which is just 38 minutes from St Pancras, is now complete and our facilities at Tenterden have been given a facelift that has driven an increase in retail sales of 17%. We have an ambitious and experienced management team focussed on our desire to make Chapel Down England’s most exciting drinks company. We are on the way, but there is much to be done.

"We will continue to make substantial investments over the coming years in planting more vineyards, developing our winery, improving our commercial infrastructure, hiring and training the best talent and creating smart effective marketing to ensure that we build the strongest quality brands and are therefore best placed for future growth and any industry consolidation."

Added chief executive Frazer Thompson: "We were blessed with an extraordinary harvest this year. Our average yields per acre were up some 97% and with the addition of new plantings starting to produce, our heroic vineyard and winemaking team were able to secure well over double the volume of fruit in good condition to enable us to build our stocks and to start to satisfy the excess demand for our wines.

Chapel Down chief executive Frazer Thompson
Chapel Down chief executive Frazer Thompson

"Our beer and cider performance has been steady as we continue to invest in our own brewery which opened in May 2019. We continued to manage our growth through a focus on premium accounts - top end restaurants, bars, hotels and premium off-trade such as Mitchells & Butlers and Fullers. We believe that the new brewery will add a significant impact to our brand offering as well as enable us to profit from managing our own brewing."

The company added that Brexit had yet to have an impact on its operation - but warned any move which would see it unable to access EU or other foreign workers would have an impact.

As a consequence of that threat, it is planning to trial the latest mechanical picking technology for its harvest later this year.

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