It might only be a couple of miles as the crow flies, but news that one of the country’s best known wineries is moving from one side of a river to another is one of the biggest stories British viticulture has seen in years.
After nearly 40 years making wine at the Sharpham Estate on the west bank of the River Dart, the multi-award-winning Sharpham Winery is relocating to the east bank.
The big move, which will continue over the next year, has been underway for the past 12 months and this week the new season’s grapes were being crushed at the new winery at the Sandridge Barton Estate on the Stoke Gabriel side of the river.
To put the story into a single bottle, it’s the same wine, using the same grapes, made under the same name by almost exactly the same staff. But, in the interests of securing the long term future and development of the iconic Devon label, almost everything else is different. For example, new equipment will increase production from around the 60,000 bottles produced at Sharpham to over 120,000 bottles per year.
Sharpham Wine, which recently picked up a clutch of medals at the Wine GB Awards, including prestigious Golds for its Pinot Noir red and its 2019 Bacchus Stop-Ferment now has a new chief executive and head winemaker and the company is also developing a large and exciting new agri-tourism visitor centre near its larger vineyards in the hills near Stoke Gabriel.
CEO Duncan Schwab explains: “After nearly 40 years making wine on the Sharpham Estate we have outgrown our old home and so have seized the fantastic opportunity to transition the wine making team across the river to the new site. This secures both our long term future and development, and at the same time we are proud to continue to produce our unique range of wines from the Dart Valley.
“It made complete sense to continue and expand our existing collaboration with the vineyard at Sandridge Barton - also on the banks of the River Dart - which has been supplying the majority of our premium wine-making grapes for years.”
Duncan, who has been wine-making at Sharpham for the past 28 years, takes over the helm from Mark Sharman, a well-known figure in the Westcountry food and drink scene.
Mark commented: “I have decided to retire after 32 years making award-winning wines at Sharpham with a great team, some of whom have been here nearly as long as me. For many years, we have been making wine from our own grapes and from grapes from Sandridge Barton’s large vineyard on the other side of the Dart Valley. I assisted with establishing this vineyard 12 years ago, so this has been a long term collaboration”
“I am delighted to report that Sharpham wines will continue and will be made at Sandridge Barton to the same exact standards,” said Mark. “Following significant investment in a more up-to-date winery than ours, Sandridge Barton Wines takes on the whole of Sharpham wine-making from October 1st, including the Sharpham and Dart Valley Reserve names, and the website.”
Sharpham Estate’s popular visitor facilities will continue to operate at their present location but, two miles away at the new Lower Well Farm winery site, builders are busy transforming a traditional South Devon barnyard into a state-of-the-art restaurant and visitor centre, having constructed buildings housing the new winemaking equipment in just 12 months.
“It is all intensely exciting. This year’s grapes are being picked now and we are starting to make the 2020 vintage at the same time as exciting developments are happening all round us,” commented Duncan as tractors brought trailer-loads of grapes into the winery while construction workers went about their trades just across the yard.
“But perhaps the most exciting thing actually happens in the bottle,” he added. “I feel Devon is fast becoming the new Burgundy of the UK! We are planting more Burgundy clones, our season offers the ideal cool climate, slow ripening long seasonal conditions and we are gaining a reputation of producing top quality red wines.”
“With the new investment here at Sandridge Barton, we are now in a position to go forward and really put high quality British red wines on the world map. We have the perfect vineyards, a brand new state-of-the-art winery and we have climate change bringing us warmer conditions. All these things are coming together to give us an incredibly exciting future.”
One of the initial Devon wineries, Sharpham Wine has built an impressive reputation both nationally and increasingly internationally. For nationwide orders of award-winning Sharpham Cheese and Sharpham Wine visit their online shop www.sharpham.com.
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