|25 Apr 2023
The below is an extract from the article 'Why beginners are buying up Britain's vineyards' written by David Byers for the Sunday Times, published on Sunday 23 April. Image by Peter Tarry for The Sunday Times.
For the complete article visit The Sunday Times - Why beginners are buying up British Vineyards
''Peter Came describes himself as a “compulsive doer” who gets up at first light without fail. So after selling his insurance business in 2016, the father of two realised he desperately wanted something else to do.
The 59-year-old is a cricket obsessive — his son Harry plays professionally for Derbyshire and his grandfather Walter Robins captained England. But rather than spend his retirement playing and watching the quintessentially English game, Peter decided to indulge in a passion that was once considered anything but English: planting vineyards and producing wine.
Came lives in the Hampshire village of Silchester. When his elderly nextdoor neighbour fell ill, Peter and his wife, Corinne, purchased 20 acres of his land, which he was told by experts provided excellent vine-growing conditions.
“‘All the gear, no idea’ is what you usually say when somebody comes out at cricket with a brand new bat and new helmet, but then gets bowled first ball. I was the equivalent in viticulture terms,” Came says. “I bought the tractors and the kit but in terms of experience I just had to learn on the fly.”
The Cames are among a surge of recent investors — from enthusiastic amateurs to seasoned French giants — in the burgeoning British wine industry.
With temperatures rising due to global warming, viticulture experts say wine-producing conditions in parts of southern England are now similar to those in the Champagne region of France 30 years ago. Also, the chalk seam that runs through East Sussex and Hampshire provides ideal drainage for vineyards.
As a result, the acreage of vines in England and Wales has more than quadrupled since 2000, according to WineGB, the national wine association.
There are now 9,286 acres of vines in England and Wales, with 897 vineyards and 197 wineries — all but two are in England — while the industry employs more than 10,000 workers, with commercially successful vineyards found as far north as Ryedale in North Yorkshire.
So how do you go about setting up a vineyard when you know nothing about winemaking? The answer, in Came’s case, was to go back to school.
“The first thing I did was to go on a course at Plumpton College in Lewes on the first Monday of every month for seven months,” he says. “We would spend four hours in the classroom and then in the afternoon we would go to work on their vineyard. I really enjoyed it. And I got a distinction — and I’ve never got a distinction before in anything.”
After working for a few months in other local vineyards, picking and pruning, Came planted a vineyard on his new land in 2019, with the grapes made up almost entirely of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. This classic trio of champagne grape varieties do particularly well in England’s chillier climate — sparkling wines are easier to produce than still ones in colder temperatures; about seven in ten bottles of wine produced in this country are sparkling.
The Cames named their vineyard Calleva, after the Roman settlement that once existed in Silchester. Came manages the vineyard himself, having no permanent staff and using only temporary workers — “wonderful Romanians who come to pick, prune and do the other labour-intensive jobs”.
Last year Calleva’s 20 acres yielded 1,500 litres of grape juice. The batch is being stored to ferment and will produce Calleva’s first organic (the vineyard does not use pesticides) sparkling wine in 2027.
It is therefore with a very heavy heart that Peter has had to call time on his beloved wine-making adventure early due to personal health concerns. He and Corinne are selling their farmhouse, vineyard and winery with a view to finding warmer climates during the English winters.''
If you are interested to learn more about setting up a vineyard and having a wine-making adventure of your own, or indeed insurance, do contact the Bradfield Society office and they will make arrangements for contact with Peter.