25th September 2014
Hidden half a mile down a quiet track from Vowells Lane, between East Grinstead and Turners Hill is Kingscote Vineyards. Kingscote which was once part of the Gravetye estate and is overlooked by Mill Place Farm, a converted 14 century stone master’s house which is now home to owners Christen and Alison Monge and their four children.
He bought the valley 15 years ago with no very fixed idea in mind, except that the land would have to pay its way and support his growing family. Seven years ago Christen was approached by a neighbour who asked if he could buy some of his land to grow the ‘classic triumvirate’ of grapes that go into making Champagne. He didn’t want to sell – but he was intrigued by the idea of establishing a vineyard.
“The land in the Kingscote valley is exactly the same as it is in the Champagne region – it just dives under the Channel and comes up again here,” said Christen.
With England’s summers now a crucial two degrees warmer than they were, the growing conditions at Kingscote are also perfect for the production of fine wine – while French growers are starting to struggle with a climate which is now two degrees too hot.
So the idea – and eventually the vines – were planted, and after two years research and planning Christen began the five year haul from vine to wine.
For the past two years, while their own vines have been establishing themselves, Kingscote has been buying-in its grapes from other local growers and turning them into wine in pressure-controlled stainless steel vats like giant washing machines. But this October they will harvest the first-ever commercial crop of their own grapes and turn them into an estimated 12,000 bottles of fine sparkling wine.
By next April his vineyard will be firmly on the tourist trail offering visitors wine-tastings, cookery lessons with Jethro Carr of the Kitchen Academy, a shop and visitors centre, plus a host of outdoor country pursuits. But right now, as the hawks circle lazily overhead, and the grapes are fattening in the summer sun, Christen is looking forward to October and Kingcote’s first home-grown harvest.
Glass of Bubbly
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