English vineyard Bolney Wine Estates is stepping up its ambitious growth plan after merging with a neighbouring Sussex vineyard to double the size of its estate.
The newly enlarged Bolney Wine Estate will see 104 acres planted with Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Bacchus, Pinot Menuier and Chardonnay, following the addition of the neighbouring 67-acre Pookchurch estate in Cuckfield, Sussex.
Pookchurch is expected to produce an additional 200 tonnes of grapes for the estate, allowing Bolney Wine Estates to boost its production to around 300,000 bottles a year by 2022.
Bolney Wine Estate’s managing director and lead winemaker at Sam Linter Linter said the merger would strengthen the estate’s business for the future and provide an opportunity to increase research and development, while also benefiting from greater economies of scale across the larger vineyard.
“We are now a significant rural business and employer in the local community,” she said.
Speaking exclusively to the drinks business, she added the mix of varieties fitted nicely with the company’s forward plans and projections – particularly its focus on still wines.
“We have been producing around 45%-40% sparkling, 55%-60% still wine for the last few years, but we want to push it more toward the still wine, especially with Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio,” she said. “It’s what we’re know for.”
The two estates have worked closely together for a number of years as part of a long-term supply contract and Bolney was involved in planting decisions with Pookchurch’s founder David Wood, Linter said.
“It’s a young vineyard and as it’s only two miles up the road, we met David and got involved in the planting, so the vineyard was planted around what Bolney needs,” she said. “Both Bolney Wine Estate and Pookchurch vineyard share the same outstanding sandstone soils and aspect so there is a lot of potential for new single vineyard wines.”
Linter told db that production for 2018 was “not far off” the 2022 projection following last year’s bumper summer.
“We had expected to make 200,000 bottles last year, but it will be nearly 240-250,000 bottles instead after the bumper year, and we expect that again this year (harvest 2019) as more vines will be coming on line. So we’re not far off 350,000 bottles in 2022 – we’ve seen huge growth in the last ten years.”
Next month (February) will see the completion of the estate’s new winery, which will be capable of producing around 500,000 bottles a year in order to future proof production and enable it to carry out contract winemaking.
“We expect to keep on growing,” she added.
The expansion would feed into markets the company couldn’t supply before, she said, as well as going after new markets. There had been good export growth in Belgium, the Netherlands and Japan, and the company was also building sales in the US, although growth had been slower growth than originally planned. Bolney Wine was one of four English wine producers to enter the US market in 2016, after The British Bottle Company agreed a “milestone” distribution deal with US-based Vine Street Imports.
“We went into the US market in late 2016 so we’re slowly developing the US market, but it’s a huge country and it’s going to be very slow growth – we’re concentrating on building in states in the US that will work for us,” she said. “It takes a lot more work than that [we initially thought]. The wines are going down well, but we’ve a lot of marketing to do, as well as learning about the [complex] US market.”
In May 2017, the vineyard opened a new visitor centre as it looked to more than treble the number of domestic visitors.