Grape things ahead for new sustainable wine-makers Chapel House Vineyard

Press Release – February 2020

A husband-and-wife team has given up their dentistry practice to grow a sustainable wine-making business at their family home in Worcestershire.

Judith and Tim Davies have launched Chapel House Vineyard at their home in the hamlet of Broadwas, building on a hobby they started 15 years ago and tapping into the continued popularity of English sparkling wine and demand for responsibly-made tipples. 

Every one of the 3,000 vines planted at the two-and-a-half acre vineyard nestled in the Teme Valley is unsprayed with harmful chemicals, and each grape is hand-picked by Judith and Tim themselves, with no heavy farm machinery used in the cultivation process. Any electricity used in the growing process is generated by solar panels on the roof of Chapel House.

Once collected, the bunches of Seyval and Phoenix grapes are loaded up and taken to Three Choirs Vineyard, just 21 miles away over the Malvern Hills, to be turned into wine.

And instead of glossy packaging, Chapel House wine makes its final journey to be enjoyed by wine lovers boxed up in recyclable cardboard cartons, only to locations within the UK.

With the number of vegans in Britain quadrupling between 2014 and 2018, the wine is, crucially, suitable for vegans, with no egg whites or animal by-products used in the fining process.

Judith said they decided to expand the vineyard as a fully-fledged business venture after producing small amounts of wine for friends and family over the years.

“We had a small area of hillside and had attempted to keep pet sheep and goats, but it wasn’t for us,” said Judith,” a former dental hygienist who worked alongside dentist Tim for 30 years.

“Instead, we decided to have a go at planting vines. We knew it might be arduous as the hillside was so steep and we’d have to cultivate the vines by hand, but went for it. We planted 400 vines and many a bottle of wine made with our grapes has been enjoyed over dinner since.

“When we reached retirement, we absolutely didn’t want to spend our time twiddling our thumbs and decided to turn it into a full-time venture. We have planted thousands of new vines over the other side of the hill, so people can enjoy what we produce as much as we do.

“It’s a bit nerve-wracking, but also very exciting.”

Precious environment

She said Chapel House was very much a family-run business that put the protection of their “precious environment” first and foremost.

“With help from our family, including our four children, we have always worked our vines by hand, without using any herbicides or insecticides,” she said. “We encourage plants and flowers to grow among the vines and respect the insects, both in the ground and on the vines.

“We are very aware of our precious environment and we do everything we can to protect it.”

Enjoying a mild climate similar to wine-growing parts of France and sheltered by the Malvern Hills, it is not the first time vines have been grown at Chapel House, added Judith. “We have deeds and documents dating back to 1604 that show monks from the Worcester Diocese grew vines here, as well as apples for cider,” she said. “So did the Romans.

“Because our hillside is so steep, our older vines are trained in the ‘goblet vine’ style, as favoured by the Swiss, and we are possibly the only UK vineyard to use this method.

“Where they differ from vines grown on trellises is that they are arranged on short arms with no wires or other support, the vine resembling a goblet wine glass. Roots can grow to 20-metres deep in search of moisture, making the vines less sensitive to drought. Growing vines this way promotes a slow, even ripening of the grapes, with good air circulation through the canopy.

“The grapes in our new vineyard over the other side are gloriously draped across trellises on a southfacing escarpment in the shape of an amphitheatre, which is breath-taking.”

Green apples, pears and peaches 

Chapel House English sparkling wine itself is elegant, dry and crisp with subtle notes of bright green apples, pears and peaches. It goes particularly well with shellfish, light salads, spicy, white meat dishes and mild cheeses, including vegetarian and vegan alternatives.

Judith said they hoped it would appeal to couples wanting to take their eco-conscious lifestyles down the aisle and those wanting a special occasion wine without the carbon footprint, a refreshing alternative to Prosecco made thousands of miles away and costly Champagne.

They are also in talks with regional restaurants looking to showcase sustainable wines on menus.

In Spring 2020, Judith, originally from Bradford, and Tim, from south Wales, plan to open a tasting room in the grounds of Chapel House, which is mentioned in the Doomsday Book.

Guests will be able to try Chapel House, look around the vineyard, hear the fascinating story behind the growing and production process, from grape to bottle, and uncover the history of the vineyard. You will also meet Ghillie and Trefor, the family’s Whippet and Border Terrier.

Priced at £25.99, Chapel House wine is now on sale at www.chapelhousevineyard.co.uk. Choose Chapel House Sparkling Wine and enjoy our discount case promotion.

For more information, images or interviews, please contact Melanie at mel@babol.co.uk.

Product samples for review are available, please contact Caroline Scott at Babol