IF IT'S FRIDAY AT NINE IT'S TIME FOR WINE!

Tony and The Guru leads you to the vineface

A NEW WAY TO VIEW THE WORLD OF WINE

WINEFULLNESS

 

 

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 Toppesfield Vineyard is the youthful baby of Jane and Peter Moore, a couple of wonderful people who make wines that proves to be excellent companions to an afternoon of honest conversation.

On the day that I visited they were getting ready to shoot an advert for their new luxury accomodation. The idea to offer that extra something came to them when lockdown hit. They're a couple who like to get these things correct from the start and have spent their time and money perefecting two opulent rooms that should be in the dictionary under the word 'classy'.

As we chat in a wine centre that overlooks both a beautiful vineyard and a terrific social space we discuss how their business has tackled the vagries of life under Covid.

 

Chateau Palmer

Peter: At the end of the day we got an agricultural barn for the vineyard and they allowed us to have that but it was slightly smaller than we are allowed or needed. They allowed us to put a little L extension on the old garage. soeventually we managed to do this we thought well actually let's make it a really nice venue for people to come along. And we thought we could do some car rallies and small events and have a facility to show off our wine.

You’re relative new kids on the block…

Peter: We started in 2012, and we won our first of proper gold medal of best wine in East Anglia in 2016 and that was like ‘wow’.

JANE: We were gobsmacked.

Have you found winning awards helpful, or does it make you more interested in chasing awards?

JANE:  it's really important I think in the beginning to prove your worth and establish your brand . Therefafter we haven’t quite gone for the awards as much, because one of the benefits is getting your little sticker to go the bottle. that's a very time consuming thing to do. You take out every bottle and put a sticker on it and then repack the box and we have done that lesser because anybody who is interested can look on the website.

Peter: There’s another little challenge that we’ve learnt through experience and that is that we finish our wine the way we like it and that's why we have a very dry wine. Our Rose is light and  is quite dry as well. That’s not necessarily what the judges are looking for. While we’re looking for a wine that will please us and our clientele, it’s maybe not going to win gold medals because it's not what the judges are looking at as a traditional Bacchus.

Jane: It certainly is in the beginning and it’s about establishing that credibility.

What was the jumping off point for you from your previous City lives to ‘let’s open a vineyard?

Jane: it was basically because we got the opportunity to buy this piece of land so while border previously was the other side of this building and the farmer was looking to sell this piece of land and obviously didn't want anybody else to buy it and it now puts our house in the middle of a really nice plot of land.

Peter:  Originally I said I wanted cattle and Jane, from a farming families, said not on your life. So we initially thought that we’d only produce 3 to 5000 bottles but of course we then straight away won the best wine in East Anglia and we had a massive demand straight away and we subsequently increased our production and I think two years ago we had our best yield of just over 10,000 bottles but we still said sell everything. Jane has done an amazing job with initially with majestic and then the coop, and then over to the local community, and we’re where we are and I don’t think we’re going to expand any more.  we love it and are really passionate about it and you know it’s a lifestyle that covers 15 different types of cakes, so people want to get here early, get a couple of hours in and then have their coffee and cake. and then when we finish which is about 1.30 I do a big harvest lunch and  people love that because it's just like being in France picking the grapes and then having a harvest lunch.

 

CHRIS: 'I've been here about fifteen months, but I've dealt with the company for about fifteen years or so. I've been in the restaurant industry so I'd dealt with the wines and they always had terrific products at great prices. I've been lucky to have some great friends who have worked for Trinchero. 'I've known Barry for five years and he helped me to get some of my wine credentials. About eighteen months ago I started having conversations about working in a beautiful location for a company that is second to none.

'One story that was the driving force for me is that there are some employees who are third generation employees of Trinchero. To me that said that this was the placed I really wanted to be.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'Does Sutter Home feel as though it is part of a big conglomerate?'

BARRY: 'For me, because I've been here so long the answer is no, but I can easily see how somebody could say yes. It feels the same company that it was twenty-five years ago.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'Is there a demarcation between each brand in the Trinchero stable?'

BARRY: 'We are a very large international company but the synergy between all the departments is flawless.

'I know it sounds corny, but it goes back to the Trinchero family. They create that atmosphere of teamwork and of everbody working together. We like to say that we all share the same job description, 'making our customers feel great about enjoying our products'. The family spirit that has always been a part of the Trinchero family is still evident. For instance, if you go over the road today you will see that we're setting up for a family picnic for three thousand employees who will also be invited to bring their kids. There will be circus rides and everything else you could imagine. It's huge, it's massive and the Trinchero family don't have to do it, but family is very important here.

'Before the annual sales meeting, Bob Trichero will be at the his computer looking at pictures of all the people who will attend and he memorizes their names. Not only that, he'll remember the names of their spouses as well.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'What do you think of the cult wineries that seem to be a growing part of Napa?'

BARRY: 'Overall, wine is many things to many people. If somebody feels good about spending a lot of money for one bottle of wine and it makes them happy then that's fine. If you make bad wine in the Napa Valley don't make wine. This is one of the most perfect places for making wine.

'On the other side of the spectrum, when Bob Trinchero started making his white Zinfandel he charged $4 a bottle. The Mondavi family and the Beringer family asked Bob what on earth he was doing. They asked him not to make the wine.

'We're Napa Valley and we don't make $4 bottles of wine. Were trying to make expensive wine.'

'Bob told them that he loved the romance of the wine industry as much as anybody but that it is still a business, and there were so many people buying the wine and telling him how much they loved it.

'The Mondavi family and the Beringer family came out and criticized Bob. It's in print, and for many years they didn't speak to the Trinchero family who didn't care too much because they were busy filling the orders for white Zinfandel. In five years they went from using used bottles to a $1 million business. It's not been parralled in wine history. They did apologise in the end because they thought it was a fad that would go away.

'When it comes to Napa Valley, for every $1000 bottle of wine you show me, I've been around long enough that I can show you a $50 bottle of wine that you'll probably like even better.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'With the large range of wines produced under the Sutter Home label, are your Trinchero wines an attempt to make a real high-end product?'

BARRY: 'Yes, absolutely! A one hundred percent Napa Valley Estate wine that has a lot of meaning to the family. For instance, you have Mary's Vineyard which is a 100% single estate Sauvignon Blanc. One of the few single estate vineyard Sauvignon Blanc's in the Napa Valley.

'Mario' is a blend of two vineyards and 'BRV' is a mountain estate. 'BRV' stands for Bob, Roger and Vera. It's a 50% Cabernet from Mount Veeder and 50% from Atlas Peak. It's a big full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. 'Forte' is predominantly Malbec with some Cabernet Franc and some Petit Verdot.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'And your Sutter Home is made in Lodi?'

BARRY: 'Yes.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'How does it feel selling Sutter Home in Napa Valley when it's made in Lodi?'

BARRY: 'This is the historic home of Sutter Home and we used to make Sutter Home here, but it's gotten so large that we had eighteen-wheeler trucks lined up on Highway 29 causing traffic mayhem. So we built a half a billion dollar facility in Lodi. It is the most state of the art wine facility in the world. Most of it's solar powered and we have an incredible water reclamation programme.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'Have those farming techiques been forced upon you because of drought?'

BARRY: 'Collectively yes, but when I came onboard twenty-five years ago our vineyards were farmed organically. All of our vineyards are now farmed organically, sustainably and in some cases biodynamically. We actually have our own cows in the Central Valley.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'What do the three of you do to relax?'

BARRY: 'I grow organic vegetables. I love growing my own food and I love to fish.'

CHRIS: 'Lately, I have a nine-month-old dog called Morgan. That is my relaxing time.'

BRITTANY:  'I also have a nine-month-old puppy and we get to snuggle.'

CHRIS: 'Mine's got three hours of crazy in her so it's difficult to snuggle.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'What are the best and worst things that have happened to Napa Valley since you came?'

BARRY: 'I think the best things are the Napa Valley Vintners Association and people getting together and working together.

'The camaraderie is still here. We all make great wine and if you go to Mondavi, and to Martini or go to Beringer you'll see wonderful places that make great wine. Who am I to say that we make better wine. I can't say that.

'The worst thing is the growth of the Valley. not the tourists because we still have the same amount. the tasting rooms have increased ten-fold and ten there's the resorts, the hotels and the restaurants. When I came here Mustard's Grill was the only one.

'We want the tourists because it's such a pleasure that people want to come to taste our wines and hear our stories, but overall growth has been too much. Up until five years ago there were no traffic jams in Napa, but now, anytime of the year there's a traffic jam.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'Do you think that Napa can sustain the amount of tourists it gets?'

BARRY: 'Absolutely. The tourists are not the problem. It's the amount of businesses in the Napa Valley. There are too many. It's such a small place that you reach a point where you have to say enough!'

WINEFULLNESS: 'What do you think will be the future?'

BARRY: 'I don't think we can grow anymore.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'Is there a danger that the hardened wine tourist might look for somewhere else without the hassles to get their wine fix?'

BARRY: 'We thought so, but no. Now if you look at numbers in tasting rooms. They have actually gone down because there are so many of them.

WINEFULLNESS: 'You're one of the few wineries in the Napa Valley that are still doing complimentary tastings. How can you afford it?'

BARRY: 'It's not the best business model.'

CHRIS: 'We're staying loyal to our family values.

'We do have additional tastings that you can pay for, but we'll never take the complimentary tastings away. It's part of what we are and what we do.'

BARRY: 'Just as important for us is that people leave here and think, 'God! I love those people. They're really good people.' Of course we make good wines, but if people don't like you they'll never do business with you.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'What is your favourite time of the year?'

BARRY: 'Winter. Nice and quiet. A beautiful place is a beautiful place even when it rains.'

CHRIS: 'Spring for me. The beautiful colours and we know that the rain is about to end.'

BRITTANY: 'I really like harvest, so it's the Fall for me.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'Which one of your products best represents the Trinchero name?'

BARRY: 'Don't ever forget the romance of wine. So for me the white wine is 'Mary' and for the red it's got to be 'Mario'. They're great wines and they tell such an incredible story of two wonderful, real people.'

'The Trinchero family are incredibly humble people. It took a lot for them to actually put their names on a bottle of wine, and it wasn't until their mother passed away that they thought that they had to honour their family. 'They told our winemakers that money was no object. He just had to do the best job he could in honour of the family.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'Why should people visit Sutter Home and Trinchero?'

CHRIS: 'It's a family. It's been seventy years in the making and we have so much of a story.'

 

One to Try

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Nyetimber - Classic Cuvee Brut 2010

 

 

'Mbode.'

'Thnger..'

'Boests.'

'I don't think we can grow anymore.'

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WINEFULLNESS: 'In the opinion of Bollinger, what has been the greatest vintage produced by the House?'

VICTORIA: 'Bollinger La Grande Année and Bollinger R.D. are only ever produced in exceptional harvests, and over the years Champagne Bollinger have created wines from some outstanding vintages, but if we look more recently in the last decade, 2002 and 2008 have been exceptional.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'In the streets of Aÿ, and the Appellation of Champagne, is it considered bad manners to drink anything other than Champagne?'

VICTORIA: 'We encourage the drinking of Bollinger throughout the meal, and as a fine wine it is perfectly suited. The choice is of course up to the drinker, and if they choose to miss out that is up to them!'

WINEFULLNESS: 'On your website, in the history section, you mention James Bond. Does the association with Bond still bring credit to Bollinger?'

VICTORIA: 'James Bond is a global icon, and Bollinger has been 007's Champagne of choice for over 40 years. The association between Bollinger and James Bond officially dates back to 1979, when

Champagne Bollinger appeared on screen with the release of 'Moonraker', becoming the Official Champagne for the famous British secret agent.

'This was thanks to an ongoing gentleman's agreement first started between the Head of the House, Christian Bizot (Madame Bollinger's nephew) and producer Albert 'Cubby' Broccoli. The partnership has evolved over the years and is now a recognizable part of ther legacy of both brands.

'In November, Champagne Bollinger hosted an event at the Hôtel de Crillon Paris, to mark the 40th anniversary of their partnership with 007. To celebrate this landmark anniversary, the guest of honour was Michael G. Wilson, producer of the James Bond films, and he was joined by Ėtienne Bizot from the Bollinger family and an exclusive list of invitees. The occasion was marked with the global product launch of 'The Moonraker Luxury Limited Edition', the latest product offering from Champagne Bollinger to commemorate the 40-year partnership. Guests in attendance were treated to the first taste of this 2007 vintage, set to a backdrop of a 'Moonraker' image retrospective, including sketches of the iconic space shuttle created by legendary production designer Sir Ken Adam.

'For the upcoming film 'No Time to Die', we will also be releasing a limited edition vintage , a 2011 created entirely of Pinot Noir from the Grand Cru village of Aÿ, where the House was first established in 1829. This is the first time that both the vintage and village have been used exclusively by Bollinger to make a dedicated wine. The excellent 2011 harvest in Aÿ, produced complex, powerful and harmonious Pinot Noirs, fully expressed in this characterful wine.'

'The excellent 2011 harvest in Aÿ, produced complex, powerful and harmonious Pinot Noirs.

WINEFULLNESS MAGAZINE: 'Bollinger used to seem quite a discreet Champagne House. Yet, of late, it appears to be more welcoming to visitors. Why the change?'

VICTORIA CARFANTAN: 'Visits to the Bollinger House are still strictly by invitation only. We accept invited guests from the wine industry, especially those in the trade who are keen to help us to share the House's story.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'Is competition fierce between the various Houses, and if it is, does it occur in others areas, like the sports field for instance?'

VICTORIA: 'Each of the Houses have their own unique history and style, but we are all working towards the same goal of encouraging the consumer to enjoy the wonderful experience that Champagne can offer.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'What do you feel typifies the name and wines of Bollinger?'

VICTORIA: 'Eminent, distinctive, and distinguished fine wines of Champagne since 1829, guaranteed through the integrity of a resolutely independant family house in Aÿ and through the artisnal know-how of people dedicated to growing and blending excellence. Devotion extending beyond the wines to support a sustainable environment and integration with local communities.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'How is Champagne dealing with the competition from wines like Crémant, Cava and Prosecco?'

VICTORIA: 'Despite an increase in sales of other forms of sparkling wine, we do not see this as direct competition. Each region has its own unique style and positioning, with Champagne holding its own unique place.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'A number of the Houses have started to invest in the sparkling wine industry in England. Has Bollinger shown interest, or is it something that is not yet on the radar?'

VICTORIA: 'Bollinger is committed to producing the very best Champagne, as a result, all attention is currently focused on Champagne and growing in the most sustainable ways possible. We, of course, keep up to date with the latest developments across the wine world.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'As Bollinger has grown, is it possible to still feel like a family business?'

VICTORIA CARFANTAN: 'Bollinger remains resolutely independent and family run to this day, and the House is currently overseen by SJB Chairman, Etienne Bizot. Through family continuity, artisinal know-how is passed on to those dedicated to growing and blending excellence.'

WINEFULLNESS MAGAZINE: 'What food would pair beautifully with a chilled bottle of La Grande Année?'

VICTORIA: 'La Grande Année is the perfect Champagne for gourment food, and for the launch of La Grande Année 2008 and 2012, we ran an initiative dubbed 'La Grand Tour', which saw

'Bollinger remains resolutely independent and family run to this day.'

WM: Do you do musical events at Toppesfield?

Peter: I have a great vision of making my 60th an event in the bowl just outside, and we’d have bands playing and friends would be there.

WM: What next for your vineyard?

Jane: We’re hoping that the accommodation will grow. We’ve spent a lot of time developing over last for five months and is this is what we are going concentrate on over the next 6 months.

Peter: We’ve invested a lot to get this right and we hope that people will pick up on the love and attention that we’ve invested in this project.

WM: Are wine writers a necessary evil?

Peter: They absolutely are. I know from my business that PR and social media that getting the brand name out there is imperative and it's about people like you writing about the next innovation in the market. what's happening, where is it happening and this is critical.

Jane: It goes back to the whole consumers scepticism. People need to feel confident about what they’re spending their money on.

Peter: So yes, it’s so important for the likes of you to write and point people in our direction,  because lot of people don't realise how difficult it is. we do it because we’re passion about it.

Jane: It’s getting across the message across and English wine is on the world stage now.

WM: is there a question you wish I'd have asked you and how would you answer it.

Jane: I think you’ve been very comprehensive. English wine market future perception in the UK more than the global perception I think the future is is really healthy I think it's a delicate stage which I was telling you about which if it's not appreciated by whichever government decides on taxation that it could kill a ghost that laser gold neck it's great it's going to get this can take time but I think one thing we we suffer English always have it's a patience when it comes to time i try and compare

 

WINEFULLNESS: 'Is China the biggest market for Palmer?'

THOMAS DUROUX: 'Just to give you an idea. On an average basis 45% of our sales are in Europe, Asia is about 35% and of that perhaps about 20 to 25% is China and Hong Kong. It is a strong market and it is a growing market, but Palmer is such a strong brand in all markets.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'Is there a myth about Château Palmer that you would like to put to bed?'

THOMAS: 'Sometimes it's not easy for us to explain in detail what we're trying to achieve, especially in the vineyard because we ourselves are discovering a lot of things. I hope that with a little time we might find ways to explain these details with simple words to make things more real for the consumer.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'Apart from Bordeaux, of course, what are your favourite wines?

THOMAS: 'I have plenty. As well as being a wine producer I am a wine geek and I like to taste from all over the place. Coming from France one is spoiled. I love Burgundy and I love the Rhône a lot. If I had to mention a wine region at the moment that interests me a lot then it would have to be the classic part of Tuscany where Chianti Classico is made. Those wines are very interesting. They're not recognised as much as they should be, as much as Barolo or the Super Tuscans, but I really hope that in future they will be appreciated at a higher level because those wines are incredible.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'What has been the biggest innovation in the wine industry since you started?'

THOMAS: 'I think the biggest innovation has been a move back to basics. When I started in the 90's it was a time where more was better, more concentration, more extraction and more new oak. As a result, a lot of terrior was messed up. In my opinion, in the last ten years I've seen a lot of regions where people are going back to basic techniques. There's more trying to put the uniqueness of a place up front.'

'There's more trying to put the uniqueness of a place up front.'

Welcome to

the

House of Bollinger

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The Rise and Rise

of

Thomas Duroux's got the whole world in his hands

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Welcome To The House Of Fun

Toppesfield

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Jane: it was basically because we got the opportunity to buy this piece of land so while border previously was the other side of this building and the farmer was looking to sell this piece of land and obviously didn't want anybody else to buy it and it now puts our house in the middle of a really nice plot of land.

Peter:  Originally I said I wanted cattle and Jane, from a farming families, said not on your life. So we initially thought that we’d only produce 3 to 5000 bottles but of course we then straight away won the best wine in East Anglia and we had a massive demand straight away and we subsequently increased our production and I think two years ago we had our best yield of just over 10,000 bottles but we still said sell everything. Jane has done an amazing job with initially with majestic and then the coop, and then over to the local community, and we’re where we are and I don’t think we’re going to expand any more.  

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we love it and are really passionate about it and you know it’s a lifestyle that covers itself, but it's just part of our lives. we love to come back to do the  spraying and Jade does the  stripping or whatever and we share all those jobs and we really love it.

how are you how are you finding getting workers to come and work because of Covid?

Jane: We have a guy in Sybil Headinham and he does most of the specialist work. He’s e 5 minutes drive away he does all the specialist jobs like the pruning and he’ll help throughout the year with things like moving the wires, tucking in etc, but we’ve got more mechanised over the last year or two, and some of the jobs he used to do we’ve now got specialist pieces of kit to do the work. he's our main specialis, hands-on person. We used Duncan McNeill (?) as our consultant at the very beginning and we don't need him now so much. It’s more the odd conversation with him and then for harvest we have the community who all come in on a Saturday morning of harvest and we pick until about 10:30am. We’ve got 2 friends in the village who are amazing bakers and they  make about 15 different types of cakes, so people want to get here early, get a couple of hours in and then have their coffee and cake. and then when we finish which is about 1.30 I do a big harvest lunch and  people love that because it's just like being in France picking the grapes and then having a harvest lunch.

Peter:  Then I get in the lorry and take it down because we have a specific time and our grapes have to be pressed within 4 hours at New Hall. It’s great that the local community have an affinity with the vineyard.

JANE: They buy for presents, for Christmas and everyday drinking.

You’ve mentioned France and the French influence is that what your first love of wine is?

JANE: I’m a French speaker and I've spent a lot of time as a student in France and then worked in France, back and 4th for 10 years so yes for me it was always French wines that were the ones to go for, whether it was a Loire white or a Provencal Rose. That was kind of what we grew up on.

PETER: And for us it was recognising that English wine wasn’t terrible anymore. It used to be bloody awful, like the stuff out of a pond. Now we plant different varieties, different rootstock. The whole spray regime is different, the whole picking cold distillation process is very different so the product we produce is a great product and that's what we said. If we are going to serve this to our friends we want to be proud of it and say this is great.

You’ve not embedded in tradition the same way the French are?

PETER: No, no. So we can try slightly different things and when we finish the wine we could try different techniques. We’ve talked about using oak chips. We haven’t because we haven’t the volume to do that. We’re trying to keep it easy for ourselves.

Jane: We think there’s a lot to be said for keeping it simple. We just produce two grape varieties and we produce those really well.

How is the harvest shaping up at the moment?

Jane: It’s actually looking okay. We were worried back in may, June because of the frost damage and the bottom 50% of the vineyard was very badly damaged, but there’s a fair amount of growth out now. Whether it’s ripe enough for harvest is another matter.

Peter: the quality is great and where we got good bunches the quality is fantastic, but I think we're probably 50% down on last year. It was a killer frost this year. We had such good early growth and then we had about five days of absolutely devastating weather, and we were out there driving all night trying to keep it and we didn’t manage. It was absolutely horrendous. And the secondary heat caused other problems because when you get a picker who doesn’t really understand what they're doing they'll see a bunch of grapes and by that time the secondary growth are actually formed bunch of grapes and they’ll think they are both to be picked there not because the secondary growth is just not there yet so we have to be very careful about how pick it and in fact what we do is we go down and the week before and we’ll cut a lot of it out.  

Jane: We did that last year. We lost about 10% and it’s such a shame to see those grapes just on the floor.

Do you have problems with predators?

Peter: Everybody is worried about that but no. we have to follow rows and we have a massive herd of deer (40/50 head) and they sometimes come through but they will never go in the vines. they will go on the edges and we sacrifice that and they can much away at.

Jane: They’re frightened of getting trapped amongst the vines.

Peter: And as far as pesticides we don’t use any. We’ve got lots of bees and we don’t want anything that challenges those, so we try and be as natural as possible really.

 

Are you trying for biodynamic status?

Jane: No. We’ve tried some of the methods, but we don’t like the results.

Peter: The wine were tried was unfiltered and we just found it bloody awful.

Jane: It reminds me of how English wines were 20 years ago, but there’s a market for it.

what happened to the Roman centurion?

Jane: We have some notes in the house from when we bought the property.

Peter: We know that a Roman centurion was dug it up in red barn field which belonged to this property. it's just over there and it was dug up and taken to Colchester museum and he had his sword and some oil pots where be obviously and they say what happens was that it was on the road up to Cambridge from Colchester. they think he's just not very well, come off the road camped up and died and that's how he was buried. They say that this valley was planted with vines in  Roman times would be ideal. It was a lot warmer then. And it would have been ideal, and we don't know how they made wine then. There are no records of what the taste and flavours were.

Who in the world wine inspires and why?

Jane: I suppose going back years it would have been somebody like Jilly Goulden. She was the first one I saw on TV when I was younger. She talked with such passion about wine. It was the flavours  that she found in different wines. That’s my earliest memory of somebody really talking about the varieties. We’ve met Oz Clarke at various events and he always seems switched on.

Peter: We drink what we like to drink. I know what I like. taste buds are very good. Mine aren’t and I like big, bold, strong flavours. I like heavy, I like Viogniers, bold Chardonnays and of course our wine. What++t we don't like is the pompousness of it. we like nice drinking wine and everyone has different tastes. some people find things horrible some will find things fantastic Lost easy to engage with okay when we opened this but we just decided that don't make this successful with Duncan we asked him to cut the ribbon and I will remember working on my laptops going into the street and came back and he said he said to come made up to get that recognition but we was just got on. Everyone is different.

Jane: I suppose the guy who was very inspirational for us was Duncan Macneill (?). He was our consultant. A lot of people say that it’s expensive using a consultant but I see the value in what they do. What we pay Duncan compared to what we would have lost if we’d have made the wrong decisions is a drop in the ocean. We put down our success to the good advice we received from him. He was so easy to engage with. He’s a straight talking Yorkshireman.

You produce two wines. Have you thought about producing other varietals?

Peter: We wanted to keep it simple and the more varieties you have, the longer harvest is, you have the more different process you have to go through. we thought about doing champagne but everyone else is doing to champagne so we're not going to do it. Now, we are going to do it.

Jane: We’ve been doing it for three or four years, 16, 17 and 18 and we’ve produced small quantities and we haven’t offered that to the retailers because we don’t have the volume.

Land usage is obviously an important factor for a vineyard of this size?

Jane: In the beginning Duncan arranged all the soil tests for us to understand which rootstocks to plant. based on that we followed his guidelines. Doing everything right from day one makes it easier.

Tell me about the Wine centre here?

Jane: Originally we were doing tastings in kitchen which wasn’t the professional image we wanted to get across. so we built the centre you’re standing in.

 

How did the two of you end up here.

Jane:  I'd worked abroad in Sweden for five years Peter had been in the army and we met in Felsted about thirty one years ago. We’re very project people and when we finished our house at Blackmore end   we needed another project and we found this. We thought it would be a twenty year project and already we’ve been here about twenty eight years. We just love the feel of the house. It’s such a lovely house and we fell in love with it.

(points out of the window) and this is the wine centre garden.

WM: It all feels like a natural fit, a very organic place.

Jane: Thank you very much.

Peter: We’ve got an Italian/English feel with topiary and trees. Openness and a classical feel all around you.

The Whispering Angel comparison must have come as a real shock?

Jane: It did and it was pleasing. The people who wrote it weren’t saying that this wine was better or that wine was better. It was trying to point people in a different direction for people who’d tried Whispering Angel but wanted to go in a local direction.

Is there a wine that the two of you used to love but have drifted away from?

Peter: We’ve done things like drink the big French reds and gone off them. Chardonnay is one of those drinks that has changed. Initially we didn’t like them because it was very thick and oaky, but now they’re starting to produce some great Chardonnay’s. I like a French burgundy kind, so that's kind of coming back into the Chardonnay world a bit with the softer, more exciting Chardonnays. I’ve got a fridge full at the moment.

 

Do you think that wine is becoming a political tool?

Peter: I wish it would more so because of things like the tax regime of English wine compared to French. we produce as good a product but it's more expensive on the shelves because of our tax. that's the only reason and that really winds us up. it makes it 12 pounds as opposed to 7 pound bottle. It’s crazy!

Jane: We did hope that the whole Brexit thing would help focus attention, but obviously the whole Covid thing has overtaken anything to do with Brexit. I that previously there might have been more interest because our industry is growing, The exchequer sees more money coming in from duty.

Do you think it's do you think the English wine industry is at a delicate stage?

Jane:  I think that there’s been and there’s such great players and we’ve got a very strong National Association now with GB Wine,  it would be a disaster to introduce something that didn't help because of put employment opportunities.

what disappoints you about the average wine consumer?

Jane: I think it’s scepticism about English wines. I kind of understand it because we drank some really  awful English wines in the past. We were lucky to have got in big with the co-op who you have to go through head office to be placed and I said that we had lots of people asking because we were working in London.  it took us probably 8 nine months to get it on the shelves but as part of that we agreed that we would just start with six locals local stores, and myself and a colleague who helps me, we went and did pop up stands in the local co-ops and literally we go there for two or 3 hours on a Friday afternoon with our little stand as you go in there. We had chilled wine and glasses and we’d ask them if we could tempt them with a glass of English chilled wine.

They’d tell they didn’t like English wine. I’d say that 70% of the people would walk past and say that. For me that was really disheartening. I’d have to say to them that it has changed a lot, just try a little bit and see what you think, and they’d tell us that it was quite nice and they’d have another sip and be surprised that it was produced by Toppesfield.  There is still that scepticism about English wine. It’s a slow process of converting people and I think that has been one of things during Covid. that people have drunk more local wines. We’ve certainly done a lot of local deliveries during that time.  There were lots of retail outlets that had our wine and it sold really good because I think people treated themselves to something a bit nicer and they also treated themselves to something local, and certainly I think it only takes one taste of a good English wine and people start to think that they might try another one or a different one. That initial scepticism is disappointing but t's a long slow process and that's where things like the local projects fortnight that we do with the coop and English wine week, and all of that publicity help to build confidence.

I totally get that people don't want to spend more money on English wine if they think it's risky because things are relatively tight for people so why would you make that investment in a 12 pounds or 14 pound bottle wine if you're not convinced it's going to be good. I think it is very important to mention how helpful the co-op has been to local producers.

WM: What was the last thing that made you really laugh?

Jane: I suppose we got two kittens during lockdown and because they've been with us all the way through lockdown, one is a main coon (?) called week Fergus and the other is called Pinot, and they are hilarious and adventurous. The other day  somewhere yesterday was in today we have these B he was on the back shelf so it's just like and what are Fergus got into the car and wanted to go off on an adventure and they’re used to staying in the new luxury accommodation, and one of the things that has been a concern is that because they've been used to being with people all the way through lock down is that when we do luxury accommodation people can't come if they don't like cats. They’re just so used to going everywhere.

What's the best view in your vineyard?

Jane takes me and shows me the view from the new luxury accommodation. The view looks over the vineyard and at the rolling hills of the valley beyond and I just cannot disagree that anybody who is lucky enough to spend the night here will enjoy seeing a pink warm sun rise over this vineyard.

WM: Have you got a favourite restaurant what do you love to eat when you go there?

Peter: I have a couple of classics that are very French. I love The Bleeding Heart it's just off Holborn, and it's a French restaurant, it’s just fantastic and I love that. We love The Frog which is a master chef restaurant. that's a tasting menu.

Jane: It’s in Shoreditch

Peter: The Queen’s Head at Horkenden (?) We love.  It’s a pub that about a 40 minutes drive and you get really crunchy roast potatoes, fantastic food that is just really well- cooked.

W.M: I know that you’re relatively new but has there ever been a time when you’ve wondered if you’ve done the right thing?

Jane: Of course

Peter: I suppose it sometimes occurs when you look at the bottom line. At how much you spend on it. For instance, I’ve just bought another machine because we’re trying to be more chemical free so there’s £5000, but the payback on that is huge.

What would make your lives easier?

Peter: I suppose the only thing we wish we had would be access to lots of water. I wish I had a large reservoir. I think that would make life easier for us because it's very nerve racking during those last few weeks where they could be Frost and we’ve got lots of growth. It would great to have an automatic system that might take care of that.

WM: Is there a genre of music you like?

Jane: I like Classical opera.

Peter: We both like classical opera. We’re quite open with music. I'm deaf in my left ear.

WM: Do you do musical events at Toppesfield?

Peter: I have a great vision of making my 60th an event in the bowl just outside, and we’d have bands playing and friends would be there.

WM: What next for your vineyard?

Jane: We’re hoping that the accommodation will grow. We’ve spent a lot of time developing over last for five months and is this is what we are going concentrate on over the next 6 months.

Peter: We’ve invested a lot to get this right and we hope that people will pick up on the love and attention that we’ve invested in this project.

WM: Are wine writers a necessary evil?

Peter: They absolutely are. I know from my business that PR and social media that getting the brand name out there is imperative and it's about people like you writing about the next innovation in the market. what's happening, where is it happening and this is critical.

Jane: It goes back to the whole consumers scepticism. People need to feel confident about what they’re spending their money on.

Peter: So yes, it’s so important for the likes of you to write and point people in our direction,  because lot of people don't realise how difficult it is. we do it because we’re passion about it.

Jane: It’s getting across the message across and English wine is on the world stage now.

WM: is there a question you wish I'd have asked you and how would you answer it.

Jane: I think you’ve been very comprehensive. English wine market future perception in the UK more than the global perception I think the future is is really healthy I think it's a delicate stage which I was telling you about which if it's not appreciated by whichever government decides on taxation that it could kill a ghost that laser gold neck it's great it's going to get this can take time but I think one thing we we suffer English always have it's a patience when it comes to time i try and compare

 

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we love it and are really passionate about it and you know it’s a lifestyle that covers itself, but it's just part of our lives. we love to come back to do the  spraying and Jade does the  stripping or whatever and we share all those jobs and we really love it.

how are you how are you finding getting workers to come and work because of Covid?

Jane: We have a guy in Sybil Headinham and he does most of the specialist work. He’s e 5 minutes drive away he does all the specialist jobs like the pruning and he’ll help throughout the year with things like moving the wires, tucking in etc, but we’ve got more mechanised over the last year or two, and some of the jobs he used to do we’ve now got specialist pieces of kit to do the work. he's our main specialis, hands-on person. We used Duncan McNeill (?) as our consultant at the very beginning and we don't need him now so much. It’s more the odd conversation with him and then for harvest we have the community who all come in on a Saturday morning of harvest and we pick until about 10:30am. We’ve got 2 friends in the village who are amazing bakers and they  make about 15 different types of cakes, so people want to get here early, get a couple of hours in and then have their coffee and cake. and then when we finish which is about 1.30 I do a big harvest lunch and  people love that because it's just like being in France picking the grapes and then having a harvest lunch.

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Peter:  Then I get in the lorry and take it down because we have a specific time and our grapes have to be pressed within 4 hours at New Hall. It’s great that the local community have an affinity with the vineyard.

JANE: They buy for presents, for Christmas and everyday drinking.

You’ve mentioned France and the French influence is that what your first love of wine is?

JANE: I’m a French speaker and I've spent a lot of time as a student in France and then worked in France, back and 4th for 10 years so yes for me it was always French wines that were the ones to go for, whether it was a Loire white or a Provencal Rose. That was kind of what we grew up on.

PETER: And for us it was recognising that English wine wasn’t terrible anymore. It used to be bloody awful, like the stuff out of a pond. Now we plant different varieties, different rootstock. The whole spray regime is different, the whole picking cold distillation process is very different so the product we produce is a great product and that's what we said. If we are going to serve this to our friends we want to be proud of it and say this is great.

You’ve not embedded in tradition the same way the French are?

PETER: No, no. So we can try slightly different things and when we finish the wine we could try different techniques. We’ve talked about using oak chips. We haven’t because we haven’t the volume to do that. We’re trying to keep it easy for ourselves.

Jane: We think there’s a lot to be said for keeping it simple. We just produce two grape varieties and we produce those really well.

How is the harvest shaping up at the moment?

Jane: It’s actually looking okay. We were worried back in may, June because of the frost damage and the bottom 50% of the vineyard was very badly damaged, but there’s a fair amount of growth out now. Whether it’s ripe enough for harvest is another matter.

Peter: the quality is great and where we got good bunches the quality is fantastic, but I think we're probably 50% down on last year. It was a killer frost this year. We had such good early growth and then we had about five days of absolutely devastating weather, and we were out there driving all night trying to keep it and we didn’t manage. It was absolutely horrendous. And the secondary heat caused other problems because when you get a picker who doesn’t really understand what they're doing they'll see a bunch of grapes and by that time the secondary growth are actually formed bunch of grapes and they’ll think they are both to be picked there not because the secondary growth is just not there yet so we have to be very careful about how pick it and in fact what we do is we go down and the week before and we’ll cut a lot of it out.  

Jane: We did that last year. We lost about 10% and it’s such a shame to see those grapes just on the floor.

Do you have problems with predators?

Peter: Everybody is worried about that but no. we have to follow rows and we have a massive herd of deer (40/50 head) and they sometimes come through but they will never go in the vines. they will go on the edges and we sacrifice that and they can much away at.

Jane: They’re frightened of getting trapped amongst the vines.

Peter: And as far as pesticides we don’t use any. We’ve got lots of bees and we don’t want anything that challenges those, so we try and be as natural as possible really.

 

Are you trying for biodynamic status?

Jane: No. We’ve tried some of the methods, but we don’t like the results.

Peter: The wine were tried was unfiltered and we just found it bloody awful.

Jane: It reminds me of how English wines were 20 years ago, but there’s a market for it.

what happened to the Roman centurion?

Jane: We have some notes in the house from when we bought the property.

Peter: We know that a Roman centurion was dug it up in red barn field which belonged to this property. it's just over there and it was dug up and taken to Colchester museum and he had his sword and some oil pots where be obviously and they say what happens was that it was on the road up to Cambridge from Colchester. they think he's just not very well, come off the road camped up and died and that's how he was buried. They say that this valley was planted with vines in  Roman times would be ideal. It was a lot warmer then. And it would have been ideal, and we don't know how they made wine then. There are no records of what the taste and flavours were.

Who in the world wine inspires and why?

Jane: I suppose going back years it would have been somebody like Jilly Goulden. She was the first one I saw on TV when I was younger. She talked with such passion about wine. It was the flavours  that she found in different wines. That’s my earliest memory of somebody really talking about the varieties. We’ve met Oz Clarke at various events and he always seems switched on.

Peter: We drink what we like to drink. I know what I like. taste buds are very good. Mine aren’t and I like big, bold, strong flavours. I like heavy, I like Viogniers, bold Chardonnays and of course our wine. What++t we don't like is the pompousness of it. we like nice drinking wine and everyone has different tastes. some people find things horrible some will find things fantastic Lost easy to engage with okay when we opened this but we just decided that don't make this successful with Duncan we asked him to cut the ribbon and I will remember working on my laptops going into the street and came back and he said he said to come made up to get that recognition but we was just got on. Everyone is different.

Jane: I suppose the guy who was very inspirational for us was Duncan Macneill (?). He was our consultant. A lot of people say that it’s expensive using a consultant but I see the value in what they do. What we pay Duncan compared to what we would have lost if we’d have made the wrong decisions is a drop in the ocean. We put down our success to the good advice we received from him. He was so easy to engage with. He’s a straight talking Yorkshireman.

You produce two wines. Have you thought about producing other varietals?

Peter: We wanted to keep it simple and the more varieties you have, the longer harvest is, you have the more different process you have to go through. we thought about doing champagne but everyone else is doing to champagne so we're not going to do it. Now, we are going to do it.

Jane: We’ve been doing it for three or four years, 16, 17 and 18 and we’ve produced small quantities and we haven’t offered that to the retailers because we don’t have the volume.

Land usage is obviously an important factor for a vineyard of this size?

Jane: In the beginning Duncan arranged all the soil tests for us to understand which rootstocks to plant. based on that we followed his guidelines. Doing everything right from day one makes it easier.

Tell me about the Wine centre here?

Jane: Originally we were doing tastings in kitchen which wasn’t the professional image we wanted to get across. so we built the centre you’re standing in.

How did the two of you end up here.

Jane:  I'd worked abroad in Sweden for five years Peter had been in the army and we met in Felsted about thirty one years ago. We’re very project people and when we finished our house at Blackmore end   we needed another project and we found this. We thought it would be a twenty year project and already we’ve been here about twenty eight years. We just love the feel of the house. It’s such a lovely house and we fell in love with it.

(points out of the window) and this is the wine centre garden.

WM: It all feels like a natural fit, a very organic place.

Jane: Thank you very much.

Peter: We’ve got an Italian/English feel with topiary and trees. Openness and a classical feel all around you.

The Whispering Angel comparison must have come as a real shock?

Jane: It did and it was pleasing. The people who wrote it weren’t saying that this wine was better or that wine was better. It was trying to point people in a different direction for people who’d tried Whispering Angel but wanted to go in a local direction.

Is there a wine that the two of you used to love but have drifted away from?

Peter: We’ve done things like drink the big French reds and gone off them. Chardonnay is one of those drinks that has changed. Initially we didn’t like them because it was very thick and oaky, but now they’re starting to produce some great Chardonnay’s. I like a French burgundy kind, so that's kind of coming back into the Chardonnay world a bit with the softer, more exciting Chardonnays. I’ve got a fridge full at the moment.

Do you think that wine is becoming a political tool?

Peter: I wish it would more so because of things like the tax regime of English wine compared to French. we produce as good a product but it's more expensive on the shelves because of our tax. that's the only reason and that really winds us up. it makes it 12 pounds as opposed to 7 pound bottle. It’s crazy!

Jane: We did hope that the whole Brexit thing would help focus attention, but obviously the whole Covid thing has overtaken anything to do with Brexit. I that previously there might have been more interest because our industry is growing, The exchequer sees more money coming in from duty.

Do you think it's do you think the English wine industry is at a delicate stage?

Jane:  I think that there’s been and there’s such great players and we’ve got a very strong National Association now with GB Wine,  it would be a disaster to introduce something that didn't help because of put employment opportunities.

what disappoints you about the average wine consumer?

Jane: I think it’s scepticism about English wines. I kind of understand it because we drank some really  awful English wines in the past. We were lucky to have got in big with the co-op who you have to go through head office to be placed and I said that we had lots of people asking because we were working in London.  it took us probably 8 nine months to get it on the shelves but as part of that we agreed that we would just start with six locals local stores, and myself and a colleague who helps me, we went and did pop up stands in the local co-ops and literally we go there for two or 3 hours on a Friday afternoon with our little stand as you go in there. We had chilled wine and glasses and we’d ask them if we could tempt them with a glass of English chilled wine.

They’d tell they didn’t like English wine. I’d say that 70% of the people would walk past and say that. For me that was really disheartening. I’d have to say to them that it has changed a lot, just try a little bit and see what you think, and they’d tell us that it was quite nice and they’d have another sip and be surprised that it was produced by Toppesfield.  There is still that scepticism about English wine. It’s a slow process of converting people and I think that has been one of things during Covid. that people have drunk more local wines. We’ve certainly done a lot of local deliveries during that time.  There were lots of retail outlets that had our wine and it sold really good because I think people treated themselves to something a bit nicer and they also treated themselves to something local, and certainly I think it only takes one taste of a good English wine and people start to think that they might try another one or a different one. That initial scepticism is disappointing but t's a long slow process and that's where things like the local projects fortnight that we do with the coop and English wine week, and all of that publicity help to build confidence.

I totally get that people don't want to spend more money on English wine if they think it's risky because things are relatively tight for people so why would you make that investment in a 12 pounds or 14 pound bottle wine if you're not convinced it's going to be good. I think it is very important to mention how helpful the co-op has been to local producers.

WM: What was the last thing that made you really laugh?

Jane: I suppose we got two kittens during lockdown and because they've been with us all the way through lockdown, one is a main coon (?) called week Fergus and the other is called Pinot, and they are hilarious and adventurous. The other day  somewhere yesterday was in today we have these B he was on the back shelf so it's just like and what are Fergus got into the car and wanted to go off on an adventure and they’re used to staying in the new luxury accommodation, and one of the things that has been a concern is that because they've been used to being with people all the way through lock down is that when we do luxury accommodation people can't come if they don't like cats. They’re just so used to going everywhere.

What's the best view in your vineyard?

Jane takes me and shows me the view from the new luxury accommodation. The view looks over the vineyard and at the rolling hills of the valley beyond and I just cannot disagree that anybody who is lucky enough to spend the night here will enjoy seeing a pink warm sun rise over this vineyard.

WM: Have you got a favourite restaurant what do you love to eat when you go there?

Peter: I have a couple of classics that are very French. I love The Bleeding Heart it's just off Holborn, and it's a French restaurant, it’s just fantastic and I love that. We love The Frog which is a master chef restaurant. that's a tasting menu.

Jane: It’s in Shoreditch

Peter: The Queen’s Head at Horkenden (?) We love.  It’s a pub that about a 40 minutes drive and you get really crunchy roast potatoes, fantastic food that is just really well- cooked.

W.M: I know that you’re relatively new but has there ever been a time when you’ve wondered if you’ve done the right thing?

Jane: Of course

Peter: I suppose it sometimes occurs when you look at the bottom line. At how much you spend on it. For instance, I’ve just bought another machine because we’re trying to be more chemical free so there’s £5000, but the payback on that is huge.

What would make your lives easier?

Peter: I suppose the only thing we wish we had would be access to lots of water. I wish I had a large reservoir. I think that would make life easier for us because it's very nerve racking during those last few weeks where they could be Frost and we’ve got lots of growth. It would great to have an automatic system that might take care of that.

WM: Is there a genre of music you like?

Jane: I like Classical opera.

Peter: We both like classical opera. We’re quite open with music. I'm deaf in my left ear.