New Forest vineyards are celebrating a near-perfect summer for growing grapes, boosting the region’s thriving winemaking community.
Whether you favour a crisp white, a bold red, or something gently sparkling, the festive season is the ideal time to stock up on home-grown wines.
When you buy wine produced in the New Forest, not only are you treated to a top tipple, but you support small, family-run vineyards and the New Forest community.
The New Forest Marque is a produce scheme set up to champion businesses who pride themselves on producing and providing food and drinks with clearly defined New Forest provenance.
Harvest is our favourite time of year
Marlings in Sway is a small vineyard producing around 4,000 bottles of wine each year. Planted over 30 years ago, the vineyard is one of the oldest in Hampshire and was already established when growers Paul Cartmell and Mark Barber took it over 10 years ago.
Paul said: ‘We have improved the vineyard over the last 10 years by planting new varieties more suitable to today’s climate such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines, changing pruning techniques and improving vine health, which enables us to produce award-wining sparkling and still wines.’
Marlings is run by a small team, including qualified winemaker, Piotr Nahajski, but at harvest time they welcome local people who join them to pick the grapes.
Paul said: ‘Harvest is our favourite time of year – it can be very satisfying when there is good crop of grapes and there is a great buzz amongst the pickers and in the winery.’
The vineyard produces a sparkling rosé brut, made via the traditional Champenoise method, a still white wine predominantly from Bacchus grapes, and a still rosé wine. They have won a range of awards, most recently a silver medal in the Decanter World Wine awards 2022 for their Sparkling Rosé Brut.
There are some challenges to growing grapes in England, however, 2022 has been a good year.
Paul said: ‘The climate in England is always a challenge to English winemakers, as we are susceptible to late season frosts, and sometimes our summers aren’t always as sunny and as warm as we would like. However, the weather this summer has been almost perfect.’
Marlings focuses on supplying and supporting restaurants and retailers in and around the New Forest. Stockists include: Shallowmead Farm Shop; Pilley Community Shop; Shappen Stores; Rosie Lea House; and Setley Ridge Farm Shop.
We have had a lot of support and networking, particularly via the Marque
Brook Hill is a family-run vineyard in Bramshaw where Ian and Amanda Brown hand-pick, crush and ferment on site to make a range of award-winning still and sparkling wines.
Initially a hobby, Ian planted the vines at Brook Hill in 2012 and the couple produced their first small batch of wine three years later. Today the vineyard is around 2.5 acres with more than 2,500 vines made up of six varieties including Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which they use principally for their sparkling wine, and white varieties Bacchus, Ortega and Pinot Gris for still wine.
In addition, they grow German red grape Dornfelder for still red and rosé. In a good year they aim to produce around 3,500 bottles.
Amanda said: ‘Ian had recently retired, and we had always enjoyed wine, so with his skills and interests in biochemistry and gardening it seemed an ideal project. He went on some courses, and we have learned a lot from other vineyard owners and wine producers – it is a very friendly and interactive community.
‘Ian always does the winter pruning, whereas I do a lot of the vineyard work during the summer. Ian is the winemaker and I do most of the social media. Mainly it’s just the two of us, we have deliberately stayed small so that we can run things ourselves, but we have plenty of help during harvest from family and friends – rewarded with lunch and of course wine!’
Brook Hill produces white, red and rosé still wines, as well as sparkling white and rosé. They have won several silver and bronze medals, both from the Independent English Wine Awards and from Wine GB, the main organisation for wine grown and produced in England and Wales
Ian said: ‘It has been great developing Brook Hill within the New Forest. People love to buy local produce and we have had a lot of support and networking, particularly via the New Forest Marque. We only sell within the New Forest area, which helps to make us very sustainable.’
Brook Hill wines are sold at local hotels and shops including Forest Park Hotel in Brockenhurst, Green Hill Farm Holiday Village shop in Landford, and in hampers from The Forest Foodie based in Lymington.
We try to be sensitive to the environment
Another family-run New Forest vineyard is Setley Ridge, which is owned by Paul and Hayley Girling. Set on the outskirts of Brockenhurst, the vineyard opened in 2001 and produces red, white and rose still wines and occasionally English sparkling wine. The couple grow the grapes, make the wine and bottle all on site.
Paul said: ‘In the late summer, early autumn we get together to pick the grapes and celebrate the harvest by eating and drinking amongst the vines. At all times we try to be sensitive to the environment in which we work and are rewarded with a rich diversity of flora and fauna for us to enjoy and appreciate.’
Paul also works closely with Roger Marchbank who owns Coach House, a small vineyard in West Wellow. Roger grows grapes at his vineyard and then crushes and ferments at Setley Ridge. It is a lovely example of how collaborative the producer community is in the New Forest.
There is also a farm shop at Setley Ridge where their wine is showcased alongside a wide range of New Forest produce.
Learn more about New Forest Marque vineyards: