Published: 11:39, 14 May 2019
| Updated: 15:53, 24 May 2019
Chapel Down, the Kentish drinks company, has cemented its place as England’s largest winemaker by planting the nation's biggest vineyard in Kent.
The Tenterden-based business, which has expanded into other alcohol ventures, including gin and beer, is keeping in touch with its wine roots after taking out a 25-year lease of Boarley farm in Sandling, Maidstone.
The 388-acre site near Blue Bell Hill will eventually be used mainly for growing Chardonnay vines.
WATCH: Planting begins on England's biggest vineyard
Mark Harvey, the managing director for wine and spirits at Chapel Down, said: "Broadly the context for English wine is pretty positive, so everything that is home grown is en vogue so people are more and more interested in products that we make locally.
"So this is a really exciting development. It's our latest planting on the North Downs, we previously planted vineyards in this area being perfect for producing high quality English sparkling wine."
Faversham and Mid Kent MP Helen Whately went to visit the new vineyard and planted one of the vines herself.
She said:"It’s really great to have Chapel Down planting such a huge area of vines here in my constituency.
"It's all part of the expansion of the English wine industry, so it's really good news.
"Rather than people buying wines overseas, they can buy really good quality wine made right here in Kent.
She added "I'm excited to see this happening."
Chapel Down is planting 150 acres this year and the remaining acres the following year, but it will take roughly seven years for the grapes grown from these vines to be made into Chardonnay.
Despite the long growing period, the company is certain Kent is one of the best places for planting.
Richard Lewis, whose in charge of looking after the vineyards at Chapel Down, said: "We can’t sell our wines as English sparkling wine if we import grapes, but we can produce grapes in this country, which are making our sparkling and still wines, which have been shown to rival those from abroad so it makes perfect sense to grow our own."
However, there is still some uncertainty over the future of the vineyards - mainly due to Brexit.
Mr Harvey added: "Since the referendum, the broad weakening of sterling means that champagne prices are more expensive so English sparkling wine looks more affordable as a result.
"The one cloud on the horizon is bring workers into the vineyards to pick the grapes and do other jobs throughout the year and we do need clarity on that point as soon as possible.
Chapel Down drone footage of the new vineyard
"We’ve got plans in place for this year and 2020 but looking out further than that we want clarity on how to bring in workers to pick the vineyards because as we grow that’s an important part of the jigsaw."
More by this authorKristina Curtis
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