Award Winning sparkling Wines – Terlingham Vineyard
Terlingham Vineyard sits on top of the North Downs, behind Folkestone. From its secluded setting, you can see Folkestone town, and the channel beyond. It’s a beautiful place for this boutique vineyard that produces between 2000 and 5000 bottles of wine each year. The Lighthouse Champagne Bar on the Harbour Arm, Custom Folkestone and The Folkestone Wine Company all sell the wine that has been awarded a bronze from the Independent English Wine Awards in 2019. They have also been nominated for a Taste of Kent award. This family-run vineyard is farmed naturally, one step beyond organically, and Folkelife went along to taste a few wines.
Jackie, the eldest of three daughters leads the tour from the cellar to the vineyard. Her family moved from South Africa to Folkestone in 2007. Her parents bought the vineyard in 2011 and have taken over farming the 5000 vines from scratch. They had no prior knowledge of wine making, but with the help of the previous owner’s vineyard manager, they learned what needed to be done.
“As you can see, we’re pretty small! We only get between 2000 and 5000 bottles of wine, and very it’s dependent on the weather. To put that into perspective, Chapel Down – another Kent vineyard – will be producing 1 million bottles this year! We’re incredibly proud of our little plot here though. It’s sheltered from the extreme weather, and with the sea breeze, that helps protect the vines from frost. It’s a South/East facing slope, and the soil underneath is chalk, which means it drains well, and the vines don’t get waterlogged. That’s really important.”
“We wanted to farm this area naturally, which means we don’t use any nasties, any chemical pesticides, herbicides or fungicides. The previous owners did, and we didn’t realise what we were missing in terms of biodiversity until we stopped using them ourselves. We’re surrounded by ancient grassland and now that we’ve stopped spraying the vines, we’ve seen nature bounce back.
“If you have ladybirds, they’ll eat the aphids, and we noticed how many different flying bugs and spiders came back to this area once we started farming naturally. We do need to tend the vines on a daily basis, and my mum does that. She’s out here 3 hours a day, scraping bugs off with her fingernails! In the winter months she prunes the vines back, and when they start growing, the can grow a foot and a half in a week – with the right weather! It’s important to prune the vines back then too as we want the energy to go into producing grapes.”
trading with the badgers
“We do make our own concoction from beeswax, linseed and tea tree oil to paste over the cuts when we prune. This worked really well last year, and lasts a few weeks, enough for the ‘wound’ to heal on the vine. We get the sun in the summer, and now we’re getting the badgers returning too! They really like the ripe grapes, so we came to deal with them last year: we left a few vines for them at the bottom of the hill, so we could harvest the rest!”
sparkling white wines
“We grow 5 different grapes. Bacchus is a Germanic white grape which is fast becoming the grape of English sparkling wines. We have Rhondo and Doornfelder which make our red wine and Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier which blend for our white.
“Britain is very good a producing brut, or dry, wines. We don’t get much sun, so the grapes don’t ripen and get as sweet as they would in hotter climes. Everything we produce has a brut taste to it, our red is a really interesting and unique flavour. It tastes a little like fresh apples, and has a cider hint to it. It’s dry on the palette, but it’s also light, and goes very nicely with cheese. Well, we say our wine goes very nicely with everything actually!
“We’ve won a bronze award for our 2015 sparkling wine which we were really chuffed with. The Independent English Wine Awards are open to any wine, regardless of how it’s farmed. Winning a bronze award when up against that competition shows that our methods produce wine that equals any other. As well as naturally farming our vines, we also produce our wines in a highly technolgoical way, that was good enough for the 12th Century, and so good enough for us!”
Labour of love
“Wherever possible, we try not to add extra yeasts or sugars to our wines, and use the only yeast they have is what’s naturally occurring on the grapes and leaves when we harvest. We slowly press the grapes to get around 60% of the juice. Every grape, regardless of colour, produces a clear juice. To add the colour to your wine, you need to put the grape skins back in the juice, and we leave it until we get a beautiful colour. Our Gold 2015 Sparkling is such an unusual colour for a sparkling white, we love it!
“In our cellar you’ll find our riddling rack. This is where the bottles are stored tilted at an angle to help the naturally occurring yeasts sink to the top of the bottle. We turn these a quarter turn every 3 hours over a number of weeks. Then comes the fun bit – releasing the lids to remove the yeast without losing much of the product! Some of us are better at that job than others!”
yoga retreats and wine tasting
“Perhaps because we’re a boutique vineyard, we need to broaden our appeal to customers. We’re going to start yoga retreats in our ancient meadow which is such a tranquil place. You can finish off with a glass of wine, which, I have to say, is my way of doing yoga! We also offer wine tasting and vineyard tours throughout the year. If you visit in the winter then wellies are essential, but we have blankets in our cellar for you to cosy up and try our wines. We then offer cheese and biscuits, tea and cake for afterwards which is a lovely and relaxing way to spend an afternoon.
“In the summer, our wine tasting takes place in our purpose-built barn at the end of the vineyard. You can see the grapes growing, and look out over the English channel whilst sipping our sparkling whites and delicious red.”
“We are limited by how much we can make, and each year is different. Yet, we really feel that we are bottling memories. We had one customer the other day who bought a bottle of our 2012 to give to her son who was trialing for the Olympics. He was in the 2012 team and so that bottle holds special memories for him at that time, and also for us. It is sad that when we’ve drunk the last bottle, that’s it! Each year brings something new and different, and it’s really exciting to discover what that will be.”