Producer of the Month: Hilary Waller, Co-founder, Eastcott Vineyard
2011 is set to be a vintage year for British vineyards, with the sunny spurt at the end of April causing grape buds to emerge early with little frost damage. As the month of June also incorporates English Wine Week it seems fitting to profile a British wine producer.
Eastcott vineyard is situated 150 metres above sea level on a Southeast-facing slope. Five years ago, founders Hilary and Richard Waller chose this location to plant 6,000 vines, selecting grape varieties that had been carefully chosen to suit the English climate. They also converted part of a barn into a state-of-the-art winery so that they could make all their wines on-site.
The still wines they produce are ready for drinking after 6-9 months. The blends and styles of the still wines vary each year according to the harvest. Their sparkling wines are made using the traditional method - Methode Champenoise - as originally developed by Charles Merrett in England in the seventeenth century. This method involves double fermentation, so the wines need lengthy maturation and 2 to 3 years before they are ready to consume. The Guardian described Eastcott's sparkling wine as a top quality and affordable alternative to Champagne.
- Why do you do what you do?
Initially we wanted to have a change of lifestyle and to have the chance of learning something different. We have not only now achieved this but we are doing something which we feel passionately proud about and have responsibility for, in every stage of the process. Richard's domain is the Winery and mine is the Vineyard, so together we handle everything in-house, from grape to glass, for both our still and sparkling wines.
- What achievement are you most proud of?
Being brave enough to pack in corporate life and having faith in our own abilities. Five years on, we still have few benchmarks against which to judge our progress, but have never regretted taking the plunge. So many people say ‘Oh, I've heard of people like you but never met anyone who has actually done it'. - What is your most memorable moment? That's easy – picking our first grape crop and being able to take them straight into our winery to start pressing while the pickers carried on. When the crew finished they were able to taste the freshly pressed juice and everyone thought it tasted so fruity that we should be bottling it on its own.
- If you were Prime Minister, what one thing would you do to encourage more people to eat British food?
- What is your favourite food and why?
- What are your predictions for the future of British food?
- If you were an advertising executive what slogan would you use to promote British food during the Olympics?
- Best budget tip?
- What's on the menu this evening?
- How can people get hold of your produce?