Walking in the grounds of Fairmile Vineyard on the Fairmile you might think you’re in France.
Jan and Anthea were looking to buy a property with land to plant a vineyard and the Fairmile provided a perfect location! Last May they planted 12,000 French vines at Fairmile Vineyard on seven and half acres of the sloped land and are planning to produce still white, still rosé, sparkling white and sparkling rosé wine. They planted three types of grape vines; Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir (a black skinned grape which gives rosé wine its colour) and Chardonnay. Jan said, “The soil here is perfect and very similar to the Champagne region, it’s a chalky, flinty soil and the south facing slope means that the vines have lots of sunshine and the slope will also allow any frost or water to drain off really well too.” To grow good grapes and produce great wine you need the best terrain; like the saying goes ‘you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear!’
Jan lived in Marlow and worked in telecommunications until two years ago. He had been making wine non-commercially for three decades and whilst commuting to London decided he would like to own his own vineyard so he studied to be a Viticulturist by distance learning on the train!
Jan prides himself on caring for the environment and for the land use to be as sustainable as possible. When he bought the land, he minimised the use of chemical fertilisers on the soil by planting a crop of winter mustard, which when turned over, added natural nitrogen to the soil plus he bought 150 tonnes of compost from the Council. He has also preserved the trees on the vineyard, has encouraged wildlife to the area by putting up bird and bat boxes and when he mows the grass between the rows he tries not cut the wild flowers.
The full harvest won’t be ready until 2016, however Jan is hoping to bottle a few bottles of still wine next year in 2015, and to offer his first sparkling wine for sale in 2018. The aim is to eventually produce around 12,000 bottles per year of still and sparkling wine, though much depends on weather conditions!
Jan went on to say, “I am really pleased that I chose this property in Henley for my vineyard and I think it will benefit the town and the community in three ways. It will mean that no-one will be able to build on this green land now. I am hoping in the future to open the vineyard as a visitor attraction and educational centre, and I will be looking to employ local labour.”
Fairmile Vineyard is going to be part of the tour for Henley in Bloom judges this year.
Jan and Anthea haven’t decided on any names yet for the wines however they may have a Henley aspect to their names.
Here’s to the Fairmile Vineyard and we look forward to tasting the new Henley wine soon.