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Why Norfolk vineyards are rivalling the Champagne region of France

PUBLISHED: 14:53 09 November 2018 | UPDATED: 14:54 09 November 2018

Lee Dyer, owner and winemaker at Winberri Vineyard in Surlingham, Norfolk. Picture: Antony Kelly

Lee Dyer, owner and winemaker at Winberri Vineyard in Surlingham, Norfolk. Picture: Antony Kelly

Norfolk and Waveney winemakers could soon be giving producers in the famous French region of Champagne a run for their money.

John Hemmant, proprietor and winemaker at Chet and Waveney Valley Vineyard. Picture: Chet and Waveney Valley VineyardJohn Hemmant, proprietor and winemaker at Chet and Waveney Valley Vineyard. Picture: Chet and Waveney Valley Vineyard

That’s according to findings published by the University of East Anglia (UEA), whose researchers studied the terrain and climate of every plot of land across England and Wales to assess its suitability for winemaking.

They identified nearly 35,000 hectares of prime grape-growing land, with much of it in Norfolk - noted for its terrain - and Suffolk, underlined for its climate.

While experts highlighted that parts of East Anglia could rival world-renowned producers, they emphasised the importance of finding the ideal location.

Dr Alistair Nesbitt, lead author of the research, said: “The techniques we used enabled us to identify areas ripe for future vineyard investments, but also showed that many existing vineyards are not that well located.

Lee Dyer, owner and winemaker at Winberri Vineyard in Surlingham, Norfolk. Picture: Antony KellyLee Dyer, owner and winemaker at Winberri Vineyard in Surlingham, Norfolk. Picture: Antony Kelly

“Some of the best areas that we found are where relatively few vineyards currently exist.”

The report’s findings come as no surprise to Lee Dyer, owner and winemaker at Winbirri Vineyard in Norfolk.

Mr Dyer, 40, began planting at his Surlingham base in 2007 and has seen numerous successful crops, even winning world’s best white wine for his Bacchus 2015.

“For about 10 years, winemakers have known how exceptional this region can be,” said Mr Dyer. “This year it’s not so much the size of the yield that’s been impressive; it’s the quality of everything we’ve produced.

“We’re still a relatively young vineyard but this year has trumped it for us. The weather conditions were ideal and all the finer details came together perfectly.”

With parts of East Anglia providing wannabe winemakers with the perfect tools, more and more people are embarking on vineyard endeavours of their own.

But John Hemmant, proprietor at the Chet and Waveney Valley vineyard in Bergh Apton, says bearing in mind the financial and time constraints is essential.

“Winemaking is very fashionable at the moment,” said Mr Hemmant, 55. “People want to say they are producing their own wine and a lot of people are coming here from the city because the prospect is so attractive.”

“The problem is that having a vineyard is very hard work for at least three years before you actually see any results.”

Mr Dyer added: “We’re seeing an absolute explosion of vineyards which is a good thing for the industry, as long as people come in with the mentality of quality over quantity.”

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