The Grange English Sparkling Wine
At The Country Brocante we love to connect with the many people and places we work and collaborate with. The Grange, our new Hampshire venue for the Spring fair, is home to the inspiring Baring family, who are working with the land they have inherited, to breathe new life into the Estate and create a living and working collaboration. The stunning House is now a unique venue for weddings and events; the Estate’s once abandoned model farm is undergoing a complete restoration and at the heart of the endeavour, is the thirty acres of maturing vineyard producing The Grange’s award-winning English Sparkling Wine. I met with the youngest sibling and managing partner, Zam Baring, on a crisp, early March morning to learn more.
Burge’s Field Vineyard lies on a gentle, south facing slope of Hampshire downland, above the picturesque village of Itchen Stoke. It is the culmination of a vision shared by four siblings of the Baring family - a vision to create the finest English Sparkling wine from land passed from generation to generation. Sun, rain and chalky soil are the three magical ingredients needed to create ‘The Grange CLASSIC’ and ‘The Grange PINK’ and the rolling hills of the Itchen Valley have the perfect soft chalky soil, riven with stratum of black flint which afford The Grange wine its character and award-winning flavour. Victoria Moore of the Daily Telegraph has described The Grange CLASSIC as all “apple snow and croissant” and, naturally, that description has me charmed.
Visiting the Vineyard in Winter puts me in mind of any garden in March, it is sleeping. On the surface it looks bare but, as any gardener knows, there is much to do in preparation for Spring. Zam explained the careful work happening at this time of year; the long branches of the vines are being pruned right back leaving only two of the strongest branches, which are bent over and tied to wires which will support the growing canopy. I was surprised by how much care goes into each vine over the year and, as there are about fifty two thousand vines to tend to by hand, a band of dedicated local helpers are drafted in to assist.
Zam’s enthusiasm for the vineyard and the wine it produces is infectious. I loved hearing how the Team are experimenting with allowing flora and fauna to grow underneath and between the vines - a practice only possible in wetter regions such as the British climate, and this creates a biodiversity unique to English Sparkling wine. Having to compete with the growth of wild flowers and grasses affords the vines a resilience and strength that hold them in good stead when they are challenged by natural threats, such as frost. It would be wonderful to enjoy a Vineyard tour on a summer's evening, strolling along the avenues of vines heavy with grapes, breathing in the abundance of wildflowers underfoot, culminating in a wine tasting as the sun bathes the slopes in golden light.
I was struck by the commitment and vision needed to plant and tend a Vineyard. It is an act of hope. I was moved by the story of the four siblings coming together and making a commitment to their shared heritage; to the land they had played on as children; searching for a way to ensure the future of the land; the future of their family; to build something that would outlast them. It is a family’s hopes and dreams manifested from the chalky ground. The first vines were planted on Burge’s Field in 2011 and it wasn’t until 2018 that the first wine was ready to drink and be sold. It is an act of great patience. The amount of time and preparation involved, the amount of research and study and the financial investment must have been daunting, to say the least.
The planning and expansion continues. At present, a huge building project is underway, cut into the landscape, above the Vineyards to create a beautiful, architect-designed building to house the production. I visited the site and saw the fertile chalky ground that is the essential ingredient needed to grow the vines and create the wine. The huge banks of chalk, created over millennia, rising above us is a quite beautiful and otherworldly sight - a view into the earth, a glimpse into the past as the vision of the future is created.
Come and meet Zam at The First Spring Fair at The Grange, Hampshire on the 8 & 9 April 2022. Glasses of The Grange CLASSIC will be available to enjoy. You can find out more about The Grange Sparkling Wine at thegrangewine.co.uk
Image source: all images by photographer Tom Bunning