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A Vine Story

Stuart and Elizabeth Smith are a lovely couple of 59 and 55 years, entering in to a buoyant English wine market which currently supports around 400 commercial vineyards in English and Wales. The couple lives near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire and has been growing vines "for donkey's years".
As this summer has brought a very good weather, with warm June and hot July, vineyards owners are predicting that 2006 would be a year to look back at with pride, in the history of wine market. On this kind of circumstances, the Smiths are hopping that they can add to the burgeoning success of the British wine industry and in the same time, they are also willing to create the country's most northern commercial vineyard.
"It is a big commitment," says Elizabeth.
But when the opportunity to buy some land came up, the couple just took it right away, as they wanted to make their dreams come true and create the Ryedale Vineyard.
"It's always been viable to grow vines in Yorkshire and there's growing confidence in the climate being warmer. It just felt like the time to do it."
They describe their financial investment in their dream as being "rather frightening". But even though, many people at their age would be just contemplating a quiet, regular life, Stuart and Elizabeth Smith are hopping for the best with respect to their financial situation. It is clear they are committed and believe in the vineyard's viability.
"Dreams don't come cheap," says Stuart cheerfully.
However, Stuart explains that they have planted 7,000 vines in April from which 3,000 on the three acres between York and Malton and 4,000 on four acres at an organic wine holding a couple of miles away. "We have a few batches of pinot noir and chardonnay and quite big batches of ortega which is a white wine. It's a lovely, peachy fruity wine and with a bit of red it can make a delicious rose." Says Stuart. “We could produce more but we'd rather keep the quantity down and the quality up," he then adds.
They also run a 20-year-old business called The Vinehouse, selling grapevines to vineyards across the country and sourcing them from across the world.
Their organic crop makes them the largest producers of organic wine, in the North region of London. Because of that, they hope to produce between 10,000 and 15,000 bottles a year of red, white and sparkling wine. Also, they have been planted many other different vines, including a variety of new hybrids on the organic site, such as regent, rondo, solaris, phoenix and seyval.
The Smith’s non-organic vines are situated on two south-facing slopes, which actually means that they will get all the sun that they will need and in the same time, be protected of the possible spring frosts. The soil is also making the investment worth as it is well drained and light.
With respect to the success of their business, Stuart Smith says: "There is a tremendous interest in local food and drink, certainly in our area, so that's quite promising for sales". He also adds that they “took some wine samples to the Ryedale Food and Drink Festival, all the wine varieties we're planning to grow, and they were really well received and the opportunities that came up from the trade side were fantastic."
Supporting the idea of her husband, Elizabeth firmly adds: "It's going to work".

About the Author: Vintage Roots

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