Couple trade in semi for English vineyard

A couple who sold their house and bought a Somerset vineyard are set to launch their first English sparkling wine under the banner Smith and Evans English Sparkling Wine.

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Husband and wife duo Guy Smith and Laura Evans said goodbye to suburbia in 2008 selling their home and buying up a nine acre farm in Somerset with plans to produce English sparkling wine.

Six years after planting Burgundian Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier vines, the couple are launching their first release 2010 vintage.

Guy has a unique insight into the drinks trade having worked in the drinks industry for most of his career at company’s including United Distillers, Rémy Cointreau and Freixenet.

With the burgeoning English sparkling wine getting increasing recognition for its quality, Guy believes the future of English and Welsh sparkling wines is “incredibly bright”, but warned of “inevitable growing pains”.

He said: “Volume and value are intrinsically linked and so with a large potential harvest this year plus big new plantings coming on stream, it will be important that producers keep their nerve when all this hits the shelves.

“We must look for new consumers rather than cutting prices. Many look to New Zealand as their model for market development but we could end up looking more like Switzerland with an ultra-loyal domestic market willing to pay premium prices but, with the added bonus of strong exports. We don’t always appreciate how well England is perceived in other markets“.

The couple’s Higher Plot Farms lies on a limestone ridge with calcerous clay soil in South Somerset planted with Burgundian Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier vines.

Of their vineyard Guy said: “We are tiny compared to the big money plantings elsewhere in the country but we are intensely proud of the quality that Higher Plot has achieved since planting. The wines show a distinctive minerality and our aim is to reflect the particular qualities of each vintage and not to produce a single homogenous style”.

Smith and Evans’ first release, a 2010 English Sparkling Wine, is expected to retail at £29.90 and already has distribution online and is available in London Retail at The Wine Pantry in Borough Market.

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