This is a short documentary photo story about a photography project focussed on a Hampshire family farm that has diversified and is now producing award winning English Sparkling Wine – whilst still managing livestock and arable crops.
The growth of English wine
Earlier this year I read that grapevine plantings in England and Wales have risen by 70% in the last five years, and nearly 9 million new vines have been planted since 2017. I had also read that French Champagne houses, including Taittinger and Pommery had been buying land in the South East, taking advantage of the drier and warmer climate that is becoming the norm, to plant vines and start producing wine here in the UK.
Demand for English wine is growing rapidly, sales rose 69% between 2019 – 2021. All of which means there is little doubt that English wine is in the ascendancy and I wanted to find out more about this growing industry and how it might change the agricultural landscape across the south of England.
Raimes – a very English vineyard
Raimes vineyard in Hampshire is representative of how family farms are diversifying in the face of rising costs associated with arable and livestock farming, whilst also adapting to a changing climate. Raimes is still a mixed farm and the family juggle the needs of livestock, arable crops and two vineyards planted with traditional champagne grape varieties.
I followed the Raimes team through the growing and harvest season of 2022.
After serveral visits it struck me that the wine industry had done a great job at selling an image of itself that is usually drenched in sunshine with flawless people, dressed in their summer finery, sipping from glasses against a slightly out-of-focus backdrop of vibrant green vines. What these images don’t present is the back breaking manual work that goes into every grape.
Over the six months that I visited the vineyards I witnessed a core group of people in perpetual motion as they moved up and down thousands of meters of vines, giving each one the care and attention it required. Accompanying the blur of hand movements was a soundtrack of rustling leaves, clipping secateurs, laughter and disembodied voices discussing everything from exam results, driving lessons, horses, family events, restaurant reviews and the village pub.
Fresh mornings and bursts of rain in spring soon gave way to record temperatures and relentless heat. Rainproof hats were replaced with cooler headgear but the pace never slowed, even as the vines towered over them.
The four day harvest in October brought volunteers from near and far as ton after ton was picked, packed and sent to the press.
Not once did I see a glass of wine in the vineyard but I did see a small community of committed people pouring their hearts into the work and that will surely come through as we get to pour the results into our glasses.