Our vineyard is situated on St Martin's in the beautiful Isles of Scilly. Our location 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall makes us one of the most south-westerly in the whole of the UK and our coastal location is unique - being just 100m from the dunes of Par Beach.
The vines cover just over a hectare of south-facing slopes on predominantly granite soils. The site was a bulb farm for many years and we still have a succession of buried treasures appearing throughout the year, from daffodils and bluebells in the spring through to lily-of-the-valley, ixias and amaryllis. This heritage is also the origin of the evergreen wind breaks which split the vineyard into small discreet fields. These 6-8m hedges (or 'fences' as they are known in the south west!) were originally to protect the delicate flowers from the ravages of the wind, and now serve to guard the vines throughout the year. The main species is pittosporum, a New Zealand native beloved by the bumblebees when it flowers in the springtime, with escallonia, fuschia and ulmus forming minor components.
The first vines trialled on the site in 1996 were white varieties Reichensteiner and Madeline Angevine. Over the years, a selection of additional varieties shown to perform well in the UK climate have been added; Orion and Seyval Blanc represent the majority, with a further nine varieties including Rondo, Pinot Meunier, Hamburg, Chardonnay, Madeleine Angevine, Reichensteiner, Regent, Siegerrebe, Schonburger and Triomph d'Alsace. These are primarily German and northern French varieties found in similar latitudes which grow well and ripen effectively in our climate here on Scilly.
Alongside the open-grown vines, we have four polytunnels here on the vineyard covering around 10% of the vines. These help to ensure that at least some of the grapes ripen, even if we are unlucky enough to have a poor summer. They also provided extra warmth for the later-ripening varieties that need a longer season.
The vines are grown on a traditional post and wire system throughout the vineyard, and trained according to the Double Guyot method whereby winter pruning involves laying down two canes from the previous year to produce grapes for the season ahead, whilst creating two spurs for next year's production.
All of our grapes are grown here on the vineyard within a stone's throw of the historic barn in which they are pressed and then crafted into wine. The building (originally a byre) was converted for the purpose in 2003 - the thick stone walls provide excellent temperature stability for fermentation as well as cellar conditions for storing and maturing the wines after bottling. The winery stands at the base of the slopes, next to our onsite visitor centre and tasting room from where we conduct tours and wine tasting for visitors throughout the summer season.