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Winemaker at Hush Heath Estate near Staplehurst, Victoria Ash, talks about how to make award-winning wine

Winemaker sounds like a dream job but don’t be fooled, it comes with plenty of pressure. We met Victoria Ash is responsible for the award-winning wines from Hush Heath Estate near Staplehurst.

Winemaker may not be the first career choice when you’re leaving school, but a few years of drinking it was enough to convince Victoria Ash.

While waitressing in New Zealand she developed a taste not just for wine but also for how to make it and wanted to know more.

Winemaker Victoria Ash
Winemaker Victoria Ash

She said: “I did a course in New Zealand and it was one where people could smell cigar boxes and things but it was really interesting, so I wanted to learn more about it.

“Of course I can smell things like that now, but there’s so much more to it. I love wine from all over the world and any wine that has a bit of flair about it, that isn’t mass produced.”

After training at specialist Plumpton College near Lewes, East Sussex, she came to Hush Heath Estate, near Staplehurst, in 2010 as winemaker and now lives in Wadhurst with her husband and 18-month-old son.

It is a team effort and family business, but the award-winning taste of the winery’s production is down to Victoria’s expertise.

“I have to imagine how the wine is going to taste in four years,” she said. “We are constantly tasting.”

Winemaker Victoria Ash at Hush Heath Estate
Winemaker Victoria Ash at Hush Heath Estate

The 400-acre estate and boutique winery had its best year to date last year, producing between 80,000 and 90,000 bottles.

But winemaking is not for the impatient. The Hush Heath wine, which is produced alongside ciders and apple juices, sits in bottles for up to four years.

“We only use our own grapes,” she said.

“We are just trying to make the best wines we can. You either make a wine you like yourself, or one the public would like.”

As an expert, Victoria likes a range of wine and won’t be pinned down to one favourite.

Hush Heath Estate produces a range of wines at its winery near Staplehurst
Hush Heath Estate produces a range of wines at its winery near Staplehurst

“If I had to pick one wine to drink for the rest of my life, I couldn’t! It would be so boring.” Although when pressed, she admits to enjoying vintage Champagne.

Her favourite time of year is harvest – “the fun part” – when it’s all hands on deck and feverish activity.

“Our grapes always come in in pristine condition,” she said. Her love of wine does mean holidays usually involve seeking out new wines to try.

Hush Heath, which produces the award-winning Balfour Brut Rose, is one of several wineries across the county enjoying a bumper crop.

She said: “We have great drainage here and thanks to the warmer weather, we have less rain, which is good for the grapes.

“The English wine industry is a very exciting place to be working at the moment. There’s so much growth and investment.”

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Find Hush Heath Estate at Five Oak Lane, Junction of Snoad Lane, Staplehurst, TN12 0HT.
Call 01622 832794 or visit hushheath.com

The boutique winery and estate is open for tours and tastings. Tastings and self-guided yours are free and available Monday to Sunday between 11am and 5pm. There are also guided tours and tastings which need to be pre-booked.

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