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Bolney wine to boost Pinot production

English wine producer Bolney Wine Estate is looking to double production of Pinot Noir after seeing sales soar in the last year.

The Bolney Wine Estate (Photo: Bolney)

The Sussex vineyard is tipping the variety for major growth after sales doubled in 2014. It has already doubled its Pinot Noir production to around 50k bottles a year by 2020, having seen production rise to around 18k – 20k bottles, up from 4k bottles three years ago.

It comes after sales of red wine overtook white for the first time.

Bolney’s md and head winemaker Sam Lintner said it was evident there was an opportunity for English still wine in the independent retail trade and with some of the higher end multiples, which is currently not being fulfilled. The vineyard has specialised in producing still rather than sparkling wine, with  around 55% of its total production being still wine, and red accounting for around 60% of that figure. The majority is Pinot Noir, but the vineyard also produces a red wine from 100% Rondo, and grows Dornfelder for it sparkling red wine.

“There is a real demand for English still wines and not that many people are doing it,” she told the drinks business.

2015 is expected to be a good harvest for Pinot Noir following a strong start to the growing season, boosted by the hot weather during flowering.  Linter admitted that quantity of the Bolney harvest was down slightly on last year’s bumper crop, but that grape quality was very high. “The quantity has come down a bit because of the cool August weather, but the quality is up there so we are happy with that,” she said. The vineyard has installed a new press which will help it press five times as many grapes.

The vineyard has a ten-year plan to significantly increase production, doubling output by 2020 through partnerships with local growers in the area and then doubling again by increasing its own acreage and plantings. Currently it comprises 39 acres, but this is supplemented with partnerships with contract growers within Bolney village, Linter said.

“Within a mile of the vineyard we have 65-70 acres growing for us in partnerships with the potential to expand that with existing contracts as we have already scoped out the potential land. But any land would have to be within Sussex and ideally within a ten mile radius of the vineyard,” she said. “We are looking for land, but we have been very fussy.”

The family-owned business plans to attract external investment  to fund its expansion, potentially looking at crowdfunding or “moderate” equity release.  “We’ve managed to grow the business from 4k to around 120-140k bottles a year, but there’s a point where to do you the really big growth we’d like to do, we will need outside investment.”

On the back of increased capacity, turnover hit £1.1m this year, up from £660k in 2013, and Bolney has seen its exports business grow from 5% last year to around 15%. Lintner says she is keen to keep this proportion as the business grows. The vineyard now exports to Japan, Belgium, Switzerland and it is in early talks with Sweden, and targeting the USA, Australia and Canada . “People are really interested in English wine and brand Britain, but there is a lot to be done, “ marketing manager Aimee Knight added.

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