Hotel group plants first UK vineyard

Robin Hutson, founder of The Pig hotels, which are part of the Lime Wood group, has planted a two-acre vineyard in West Sussex on land previously used for grazing alpacas.

Madehurst Lodge

Described as a “passion project”, Hutson planted the vines on land belonging to Madehurst Lodge, which is due to open as a new Pig hotel (The Pig in the South Downs) in early summer next year.

The vineyard is located in front of what will become the main restaurant of the hotel, and is planted on free-draining chalky subsoil, with silt and clay.

The team, consisting of Robin Hutson; kitchen gardeners Ollie Hutson and Alex Coutts; and head sommelier of The Pig at Bridge Place, Luke Harbor, have planted a total of 4,000 vines on the site.

According to a statement, the vineyard has been planted with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier as well as a “small quantity of a secret experimental variety”. Depending on the route they choose, the team said the site could yield up to 4,000 bottles of sparkling wine, or 6,000 bottles of still wine per year.

The vineyard in progress. Image: Ollie Hutson.

In planning the project, the Pig Hotel team received encouragement and guidance from Ian Kellett of Hampshire’s Hambledon Vineyard, as well as Charles Simpson of Simpsons Wine in Kent. They also worked with specialist contractor James Dodson of Sussex-based Vine Works.

Commenting on the news, Robin Hutson said: “I can’t wait to taste that first glass, albeit a couple of years away yet. The investment further endorses our complete commitment to home-grown, to local produce and to local contractors. We will post regular updates from the vineyard as we progress. Wish us luck!”

The soon-to-open Pig in the South Downs joins a small number of existing hotels with vineyards in the UK, including Michael Caines’ Lympstone Manor and Denbies Wine Estate in England, and Llanerch Vineyard and Jabajak Vineyard in Wales.

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