Fitz Winemaker, Gareth Davies, updates us on the new vineyard that is being planted exclusively for future bottles of Fitz.
A couple of weeks ago, I made my way down to the village of Hawkhurst: a gorgeous chocolate-box village nestled on the Kent-Sussex border. Given our current circumstances, this journey had to be an essential one — and it was! I was visiting a vineyard to lend a hand with the planting of the grapes that we’ll eventually use to create Fitz a few years from now.
Vineyards are one of the places where much of the work already aligns with social distancing guidelines. Very fortunate, given how worldwide lockdowns have slowed international trade and created rising demand for wines produced in the UK!
David and his family purchased Beals Green Farm in 2003 The estate comprises a beautiful farmhouse and ancient barn both dating back to 1550. The barn is currently being carefully restored by David and may one day serve as a cellar door for the wines produced from future grape harvests.
Behind the farm buildings lies the land on which these grapes will be cultivated. Given that vineyard site selection is such an important factor in the quality of the fruit yield, I’m brimming with excitement at the prospect of the first harvest! It’ll take place in around two and a half years.
The land is broken up into small parcels by tall, dense hedgerows that will provide some windbreak to the vines, and which are teeming with wildlife. Nowadays, vineyards are often vast, monoculture expanses of vines and trellising, so seeing a new planting segmented by these biodiverse borders gives a real sense of micro-terroir between each of the individual parcels. I’m sure it’ll feel more ‘Burgundian clos’ than ‘sprawling Champagne cru’ once it’s established.
I arrived at the farm late Sunday morning; the planting crew had turned up the previous afternoon. These guys work relentlessly for about a month, getting new vines in the ground all across the UK. They’ll plant 500,000 this season alone, with 15,000 of those taking up residency here at our chosen farm.
Prior to planting, a huge amount of work has gone into preparing the site to ensure the vines will thrive and produce the highest-quality fruit — planting this weekend is the culmination of two years of meticulous planning and hard graft!
David told me that some of his neighbours would be lending a hand, so as I made my way towards the hum of the tractor through some previously-planted parcels, I wasn’t surprised to see a few folks heading in the same direction. When I stumbled around the end of a hedgerow, I was delighted to see maybe two-dozen people spread out across the freshly-planted field, placing tutors and rabbit guards over the precious young vines.
This is a job that can absolutely be done whilst adhering to social distancing practices, and you could see that everyone was so pleased to have a valid excuse to get out of the house and pitch in. It was incredibly uplifting to feel the close community spirit, and a real pleasure to spend some time outdoors working with everyone – all whilst under the watchful eye of Rusty the dog!
The tractor and its operators were busy planting Reichensteiner. If you’re a fan of Fitz, you might recognise this grape, as it’s one of the key components of our wonderful fizz. There were also plantings of Seyval Blanc which along with Madeline Angevine, completes the trinity of grapes that make up 90% of the Fitz blend.
When we founded Fitz, our objective was to create a fresh, fruit-driven sparkling wine, and the flavour and aroma profile of these grapes works perfectly for this. These are also some of the varietals on which the commercial winemaking industry in the UK was built. Whilst 90% of new plantings in the UK will be made up of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, David has chosen to support us in the championing of these oft-overlooked and underappreciated grapes, which we affectionately refer to as the ‘heritage varietals’ — and which make Fitz what it is.
We’re so pleased to be working with David and his family. It’s clear from the passion and drive that has already been poured into this project that the fruits of their labour will soon be something very special indeed. It’s the start of an incredibly exciting journey: we’ll all be watching Heartenoak Vineyard flourish at Beals Green Farm.