Twenty something years ago my parents decided to up sticks and move to France. They bought a vineyard and beat the French at their own game. Within a couple of years they had rebuilt the pretty much derelict Chateau, won awards and turned around a failing business selling wine to the local co-operative into a business making 80,000 bottles a year, some of them stocked in Waitrose.
I swear the line “my parents own a vineyard” is what made Mr B propose.
So you can imagine the scenes when ten years ago they sold it. We went back to visit last year and it reminded us of how magical those summers were when we visited. I really should blog about it one day.
But running a vineyard is hard. Not only are you a farmer, but you have to do your own PR, selling at wine fares and shipping abroad. You have to be up at 4am to do the harvest, and up to date with legislation. You are also at the mercy of the weather. And wasps.
I have the utmost admiration for anybody who decides they are going to change careers and make wine, like my parents did. And like Paul Girling did. Funnily enough around the same time my parents were buying theirs. Paul had a background in property and after commuting into London daily he found himself being made redundant and looking for something new.
A small vineyard and garden centre that he had driven past many times when back at home in the New Forest piqued his curiosity and since buying it he hasn’t looked back. Now married and having built the family home on the site too Setley Ridge vineyard is going from strength to strength.
We went down for a nosey on Saturday as the weather looked great, I have a new camera lens to play with and who doesn’t love the idea of a vineyard being on their doorstep.
Sadly it is the wrong time of year to see vines at their best but we got a sense of how fabulous they will be later in the summer. So gorgeous in fact that Paul told us people even come here to get married.
Over in the greenhouses there are some vines that are over 30 years old. You have to be in it for the long haul with vines, once planted it can take four years for any fruit to appear!
Talking of greenhouses whilst showing us around Paul explained how the greenhouses that form the nursery and garden centre now have all been lovingly restored over the past couple of years. Every panel and wooden post replaced, and all the glass cleaned and put back into place. It really showed, and we couldn’t have picked a better day to see them.
And nearly all the plants sold are grown on site. In fact 65% of the farm shop products are from within a 30 mile radius thanks to Paul being a supporter of the New Forest Marque. A great way to showcase and support small local producers. I had no idea there were so many amazing products being made and produced locally. We had a lovely twenty minutes tasting cheeses and chutneys on display and admiring the cakes and frozen dinners by Mange To-Go
And the wine of course, we couldn’t leave without trying out the wines, all of them not only grown on site, but produced and bottled there too.
By which time it was time for lunch. Which was handy as Rosie Lee’s tea shop was open, serving an incredible selection of sandwiches and cakes. I was blown away by my fishfinger sandwich
We left with a boot full of locally produced goodies bought in the farm shop, wine to keep us going for a good few nights in front of the telly, and tummies full of incredible home cooked food.
With a vow to return for plants to finally sort out our garden this summer too.