Norfolk vineyard wins £42k winery grant

Flint Vineyard in Norfolk’s Waveney Valley has been awarded £42,000 for the development of a state-of-the art winery, visitor centre and tasting room.

Flint Vineyards' Ben and Hannah Witchell (Photo: Simon Buck)

Flint Vineyard’s Ben and Hannah Witchell believe East Anglia has big wine tourism potential (Photo: Simon Buck)

The Leader rural development grant has been awarded with the aim of attracting visitors to experience the increasingly serious wines being produced in East Anglia.

The grant will enable Flint to install the latest technology in its winery, including a full complement of temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks and a hyper-reductive press.

Flint is set to open its doors to the public for tours and tastings some time next year. The Leader government funding will help to transform the estate’s existing farm buildings into a visitor centre and tasting room.

Flint Vineyard owners Ben and Hannah Witchell both have experience of wine tourism having worked for wine estates around the world. They said there was huge tourism potential for the vineyard, which is located on one of the routes to the Norfolk Broads and the coast.

East Anglia currently has more than 30 working vineyards, ranging from less than a hectare to over 30 hectares, according to the East Anglia Vineyards Association.

“The Waveney Valley is gaining a reputation for its artisan food and drink thanks to producers such as Grain Brewery and Fen Farm Dairy. We hope to collaborate with other local artisan producers and create food and drink routes for visitors to the region to showcase what we have to offer,” Hannah Witchell explained.

At the end of April, Flint will plant 12,000 of its own vines – Bacchus, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc – which have been grown to order in Germany. While Flint waits for its own vines to reach full production, winemaker Ben will source the best local grapes and begin making wine this autumn.

Flint Vineyard is one of the first projects to have been approved in the current round of Leader funding. The grant has been awarded by the Rural Development Programme for England as part of scheme which encourages the growth of local, sustainable businesses, diversification of farming businesses, as well as increasing tourism activity.

Earlier this year, as reported in the drinks businessFlint Vineyard was awarded a £23,000 research grant by the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative. Winemaker Ben Witchell is preparing to use this funding to conduct groundbreaking study on the Bacchus grape variety.

The project, the first stage of which is due to begin this month, will look to develop a clearer profile of the Bacchus grape through sample analysis.

Plumpton College graduate Witchell believes his research into the Bacchus grape could help to cement England’s claim to being a major cool-climate winegrowing region.

“Thirty years ago New Zealand was virtually unknown for making wine. Now they make some of the most well-loved Sauvignon blanc on the planet. The success of this was helped by a significant amount of research, which helped winemakers harness the potential aromas within the grape, which is what I want to do with Bacchus,” he said.

One Response to “Norfolk vineyard wins £42k winery grant”

  1. M Willmore says:

    when is your visitor centre due to open? Will it be serving food, hot or cold? where will it be located. We are wanting to introduce an Australian visitor to English wines, here in early June!!!

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