Eastcott Vineyard, tucked away in a green corner of West Devon, typifies the best of the West Country. The award-winning winery, now in its sixth year, is an artisan, labour of love which produces crisply delicious sparkling and still English wines.
The vineyard is the dream of Hilary and Richard Waller who decided that once their children had left home, they would leave their high-octane corporate jobs and do something completely different. They scoured the UK before settling on a beautiful 16th century, 12 acre farm in Devon where they planted 6000 vines. In the first year the vines produced a small, healthy crop and in 2013 the Wallers had their best year yet with 6000 bottles. Turning the winery from scratch into an award-winning has been a steep learning curve. Pictured below: a farm building was converted into this state of the art winery Hilary says: "The vines require intensive, hands on care throughout the year. It's a bit like gardening, I compare it to tending and pruning roses, tying them back, dead-heading them and feeding them, except of course there are six thousand of them! Then at the right moment we hand-pick the grapes because that is the best way." They pick, in the traditional day, with volunteers who come for the day to experience grape picking and the conviviality of a shared lunch. At the end of the day the pickers take away a bottle of Eastcott wine. The cool English climate, much like Northern France, is perfect for sparkling wine which is made at Eastcott according to the "methode traditionelle" used for champagne. This requires a double fermentation, the second of which takes place in the bottle. The wine then matures on the yeast sediment to develop new flavours. English wine, particularly the sparkling variety, has become voguish in recent years partly because quality has improved so much and also as it usually offers a lower alcohol content than some of the more hefty European wines. English sparkling wines have become the hip choice for modern weddings - so much more interesting than serving a budget French champagne. As a case in point, this summer the Wallers take a French agricultural student on a work placement who is coming to Eastcott to learn how the English make their wine. And that pretty much says it all. At Eastcott you'll find award winning wines and a choice of guided tours with tasting, which run three times a week from April to September Find more information here - Eastcott Vineyard.