A’Beckett’s vineyard lies in the Vale of Pewsey, just south of the market town of Devizes, and was founded in 2001 by Paul and Lynn Langham.
As you drive off the A360, going south towards Salisbury, you park next to the Vineyard’s shop and the view in front of you spreads like a bucolic Tuscan landscape. Rows upon rows of neat vines are flanked by apple orchards, climbing roses and bee hives, and in the distance you will see the landscape rolling into the patchwork field horizon. Even on a wet and windy day your heart will be lifted.
There are 21 acres in all and the estate is densely planted. Lynn told us that the green sand and chalk soil lends itself perfectly to viticulture. In total 12 acres have been planted with almost 10 000 vines, producing 30 000 bottles of wine a year, and the remaining acreage is planted with 650 apple trees, some of which are thirty years old, as well as pear trees to make Perry. So far they have identified the following apple varieties: Red Bramley, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Lord Lambourne, James Grieve, Spartan, Laxton Superb, Katy and Worcester Parmain.
On your visit you will also be able to see native hedging, lots of hedgerow berries, wild flowers, long grass and ivy. The whole site is a natural wildlife habitat, buzzing with activity. Edging round the estate are other people’s gardens, laid out in really attractive rows of fruits, vegetables and cutting flowers. It is really a delightful spot to stand and stare, a part of England that is peaceful, unspoiled and fertile.
Lynn told us that the grape varieties planted are Pinot Noir, Pinot Auxerrois, Seyval Blanc, Reichensteiner and Dunkelfelder. A’Beckett’s also produces a range of apple juices and ciders, and there is a press and bottling facility at the bottom of the garden in a purpose built shed.
At the moment the grapes are sent away to Shepton Mallet to be turned intowine, but Paul is creating a scheme of shared ownership, whereby investors will be able to finance the building of a brand new winery on the estate. The founder vintners will receive 70 bottles per year, bottles labelled to their own design, for an initial investment of £5000. This is a way of galvanising “crowd funding” by enabling loyal customers and discerning oenophiles to be part of the future of the estate and its development.
Currently the couple sell white, rose, red and sparkling wines to Wadsworth brewery’s pubs, farm shops, delicatessens and food halls, not just in the surrounding area but also in Hampshire, Bath and London.
Lynn said that the work is extremely hard, very physical and challenging: “You have to be prepared to be out in all weathers and you have to juggle family life, the vineyard, the business and the school run, sometimes, all at once!”
The couple have three children and Paul also works full time as a sales and marketing manager for the Bible Society in Swindon.
“It’s just like gardening,” said Lynn, “but on a huge scale!” The couple have hired the services of a wine consultant, Hans Schlieffer, who helped them establish the vineyard and comes to check on progress. Even in winter the pace is relentless, as all the pruning needs to be done, in the frost, rain and snow.
“Harvest is the trickiest time, as you sometimes book all the pickers to arrive but the grapes are not quite ready, so you need to re-arrange everything. But we do enjoy it, as it is a very communal and co-operative activity. The whole family and friends get together, we bring out a picnic, we have coffee and we all have a really good chat,” Lynn explained.
All the A’Beckett’s wines are approved by the Vegan Society as they are certified free of animal products. Fining agents such as gelatine or isinglass are not used to clear the wine.
The awards have rolled in during the last 10 years and Paul is now the Chairman of the National Council of the UK Vineyards Association. The couple started making English wine when the notion was scarcely heard of, and many connoisseurs were very judgemental and dismissive of the ability of the British to make wine. Now the tide has turned, and English wines are considered to have reached such a high standard they can compete on a par with France, Italy and Germany.
Paul told us:
“I have never lost sight of what we are doing here, however. We have never set out to be what we call really serious “winey” people. We believe in having fun and enjoying what we do. We are really passionate about grapes and apples and we hope to inspire everyone else about wine, ciders and juices. We just want to keep creating a quality product and by enabling others to take part in A’Beckett’s future we hope to show customers the great potential of British wines, not just domestically but also internationally.”
Wiltshire SN10 4EN
Telephone: 01380 816669
E-mail: [email protected]