Set on a hill in 80 acres on the edge of the picturesque Hartley Mauditt village, Hartley Wines Estate – founded by husband-and-wife team Andrew and Emily Debnam – planted its first 30,000 vines in April 2021.
Andrew said: “So far we have planted 20 acres of vines for sparkling wine, and we hope to be producing about 50,000 bottles of wine a year by 2027.”
The blackthorn, hawthorn and hazel hedges, planted by around 80 volunteers, will divide the biggest ‘vineyard’ into quarters, protecting the west-facing vines from the prevailing wind.
The couple moved to the farm in November 2020 with the intention of creating a vineyard for grapes suitable for making sparkling wine.
Andrew said: “It was the first place we saw and straight away we knew it was the right one.”
But the enthusiastic vintners, who both used to work in the city, admit they knew little about grape growing or wine production before buying the farm, called The Oast Houses.
To ensure its commercial success, they enlisted viticulturist Alistair Nesbitt to help them nurture the vineyard that sits on green sand.
Dr Nesbitt is a viticulture climatologist with significant expertise in how weather and climate interface with wine production, and has 20 years’ experience in helping UK wine production businesses establish and operate sustainably.
Andrew added: “The next step is looking at converting a barn into a winery.
“As well as selling the wine, we plan to offer vineyard tours, tastings and related events.”