Home   Maidstone   News   Article

Chapel Down set to plant England's largest vineyard

ByKristina Curtis

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.

Chapel Down managing director Mark Harvey at the new vineyard in Boarley Farm in Sandling, Maidstone. Picture: Andy Jones
Chapel Down managing director Mark Harvey at the new vineyard in Boarley Farm in Sandling, Maidstone. Picture: Andy Jones
Helen Whatley MP plants a vine at Boarley Farm in Sandling, Maidstone. Picture: Andy Jones
Helen Whatley MP plants a vine at Boarley Farm in Sandling, Maidstone. Picture: Andy Jones

"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.

Chapel Down opens a new vineyards at Boarley Farm in Sandling, Maidstone. Picture: Andy Jones
Chapel Down opens a new vineyards at Boarley Farm in Sandling, Maidstone. Picture: Andy Jones

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."

Chapel Down viticulturalist Richard Lewis. Picture: Andy Jones
Chapel Down viticulturalist Richard Lewis. Picture: Andy Jones

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."

For more business news, click here.

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone

Join the debate...
Comments |

Don't have an account? Please Register first!

The KM Group does not moderate comments. Please click here for our house rules.

People who post abusive comments about other users or those featured in articles will be banned.

Thank you. Your comment has been received and will appear on the site shortly.

 

Terms of Comments
We do not actively moderate, monitor or edit contributions to the reader comments but we may intervene and take such action as we think necessary, please click here for our house rules. If you have any concerns over the contents on our site, please either register those concerns using the report abuse button, contact us here, email multimediadesk@thekmgroup.co.uk or call 01634 227989.

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More