IT’S BEEN a long time coming, but at last a Holmbridge couple are tasting the fruits of their labour – 1,400 bottles worth in fact.
Becky and Ian Sheveling set-up Holmfirth Vineyard two years ago, after converting the derelict Woodhouse Farm on Woodhouse Lane.
The pair ditched their high-flying careers to lovingly plant 7,000 vines by hand as part of their country dream.
And with a small harvest of grapes last October – a year earlier than planned – and the arrival of baby son Luca in January, the couple have more to celebrate than they could have wished for.
Becky, a former Formula One engineer, said: “Our life is totally different but it is still as manic.
“We envisaged coming up to Yorkshire and taking it easy but we are busier now than when we were working.
“But the fact we have created a sustainable business that is good for the environment, is lovely and we’re really enjoying it.
“And having Luca has just completed it.”
The couple have spent two years developing the vineyard business to make it sustainable for the future.
A new winery has already been built on the site and plans for an eco lodge and visitor centre are being decided by Kirklees planners next month.
They have also spent a week bottling rosé wine made from an early harvest of rondo grapes at the vineyard last year, along with white wine, using grapes bought in from the Midlands for visitors to sample.
The bottling process was supervised by professional winemaker Martin Fowke, who has trained the couple in wine-making to create the right taste.
“There were enough grapes to make some decent wine, which we’d not really expected,” said Becky.
“We tasted it four times to make sure it was good stuff before we bottled it.
“A wine maker from the Isle of Wight came to try it and said we should be very proud of it. She even said we should enter it for an award.
“We’re really pleased.”
Ian added: “On the day of bottling we started sampling it at 7am and by 9am we were a little fresh!
“The wine will be best with six months to soften it, but we love it.
“Everyone is a wine critic but we hope people will enjoy it.”
Now the couple are throwing open the vineyard doors to visitors.
Wine-tasting tours are starting on Good Friday at 11am and 2pm and will continue throughout the summer.
Becky and Ian’s journey to create one of the country’s biggest wine farms from scratch is also being followed by Channel Five’s Build A New Life In The Country.
Camera crews revisited the vineyard last week to film its progress. The programme is expected to be screened during May.
For more information visit www.holmfirthvineyard.com.
THE first bottles are off the production line and I joined Rob Hoult of Hoults Wine Merchants, based at the Castlegate Retail Park, St John’s Road, to get an independent verdict.
A white and rose are available as limited editions with 1,400 bottles available from the vineyard at £9.99 each.
Rob believes the English climate makes it difficult to produce a good wine, but he said that for novelty value and determination it was worth tasting.
He sampled the wines the traditional connoisseurs way – looking, smelling, tasting then spitting it out. I, on the other hand, thought that a waste and drank mine!
Rob preferred the rose to white, saying: “This is a very pale rose, there should be a creaminess to it – this has a slight dirtiness to the nose.
“I get the flavour of American cream soda, maybe a little banana.
“The lasting flavour should be a hook but this is short in lasting flavour.”
As a rosé lover, I also thought it was the better of the two and a quick survey of the Examiner office saw the rosé come out on top.
It had a much milder flavour to my usual pick – a Californian Zinfandel – and I’d probably drink it again.
Of the white wine, Rob said it smelt like a dishcloth, adding: “There is nothing on the nose for me, there’s a slight acidity to it but there is not the lasting flavour.
“For the novelty value it’s worth trying, and the fact they’ve managed to produce a passable wine in Holmfirth is amazing – imagine what they could do in France where the conditions are right because they’ve got the determination to do it.”
As for myself, I’m not much of a white wine fan – most taste too acidic to me. I’m pleased to say the acid taste was not evident in this white, it’s much milder and lighter. And while I wouldn’t pay as much as £9.99 for a bottle, hopefully the price will come down as production increases.