A village pub skittles team that formed a tiny wine-growing syndicate has bowled over industry experts with their award-winning version of champagne.
The idea to plant their own vines came to the four drinkers in 2007 as a result of a conversation in their pub in Shaldon, Devon, about how the Romans produced wine in the area.
The four friends –Mike Huskins, 49, John Gostling, 60, Mick Oliver, 65, and David Dower, 55 – procured an 800m² plot above the village from a f a rm e r after pledging to pay his rent in bottles of sparkling wine they were to produce.
The villagers stumped up £4 000 (R69 000) for research, testing and preparing the soil before planting 1 100 seyval blanc vines imported from France.
Tasks such as pruning, mowing, cutting, canopymanagement and harvesting were carried out by the syndicate as well as other villagers, who were repaid with lunch at the Tuckers Arms pub.
Last year, the group, called Dalwood Vineyard, celebrated its first tipple – 1 500 bottles of brut, a sparkling wine, that has now won a bronze medal in the prestigious Decanter World Wine Awards.
But wine lovers will struggle to get their hands on a bottle of the first vintage as the small scale of the set-up means the wine is only sold in the village shop and pub.
Huskins, a cattle geneticist, said: “We were all a bit anxious about the first bottle because we didn’t know what to expect. “When it hit our lips we looked at each other in amazement. It tasted absolutely sensational. Needless to say, we had a great night and drank a good amount of our stock. “It feels incredible to get some sort of reward after all those years of hard work.”
The syndicate did not have any experience in the wine industry when they started. Oliver is a property developer, Dower is a market researcher and Gostling is a builder. In August last year, Dalwood Vineyard produced its second bottle, a still white.