There’s a vineyard in London? Why yes – and it’s not your average vineyard either… we took a visit to the Forty Hall Estate in Enfield to find out more about the capital’s finest plonk, and lend a hand in the field as well!
The Forty Hall Estate
The Forty Hall Estate and Vineyard in Enfield is a leafy, green gem, seemingly miles away from London’s busy streets; but stand at the top of their rolling hills and you can just about make out The Shard. Chuck in the fact that the vineyard is certified organic and uses environmentally sustainable vine-growing methods, and you’ve got yourself one cracking local boozer (that’s booze grower…). They produced their first wine in 2013. Not only was this the first commercial harvesting of grapes in London since the Middle Ages, their 2013 Sparkling Brut is the first recorded sparkling wine ever to be produced in London – so you could say it’s more than a little groundbreaking…
What distinguishes the vineyard from other winegrowers, is that it is a fully social enterprise and almost entirely run by volunteers; a bone fide labour of love. There is also a resident eco-therapist at the vineyard and, following a successful pilot project, Forty Hall is now developing a new eco-therapy project aimed at supporting and promoting mental wellbeing.
Working Vine to Five…
Forty Hall run regular volunteering sessions and no prior experience is needed (we can attest to that). The volunteers are responsible for the entire process, from planting and pruning right up to harvesting the grapes, which tends to take place around mid-October. We were tasked with making sure the vines were growing upright and within their allotted space – a process rather charmingly named ‘tucking in’ the vines. And on a sunny day, there’s no better way of securing a tan (or earning that glass of wine when you finally put your feet up).
English wine is starting to make a real name for itself and compete against the more well-known European and New World classics. At Forty Hall they grow the Ortega and Bacchus grapes which produce the wines of the same name; the Ortega is a light and fresh dry white wine, with aromas of peach and white currant, while the Bacchus (excellently named, in our opinion) is a more aromatic white with citrus and floral notes. The Forty Hall Sparkling Brut is made from the same traditional grape mix as Champagne, from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay grapes.
Did You Know?
Show off at your next drinks party with this juicy titbit… as the climate is getting hotter in the traditional Champagne region of France, certain well-known Champagne producers are looking to southern English soils to grow their grapes in a more suitable climate. As only wine made from grapes grown in the Champagne region can be labelled as such, could this spell the end of Champagne’s reign at the top of the sparkling hierarchy..?
Forty Hall Vineyard | Enfield EN2 9HA
Volunteering sessions every Wednesday 9.30am-12.30pm and the first Sunday of every month
For info on volunteering and where to buy London’s very own, home-grown wine visit http://www.fortyhallvineyard.