MEET THE TEAM
Sarah - Vineyard Owner
I bought the vineyard in 2014 as a project for my retirement after 35 years in civil engineering and flood risk management. I’d been watching with interest the revival of English wine growing industry from the 1970s and from my work on climate change I knew that the relentless march northwards of the extremity at which grapes will ripen had opened up opportunities for viticulture in southern counties of England – such as Sussex. At the same time I was aware that climate change would cause increasing volatility of the weather which would produce its own challenges for viticulture.
Since taking on the vineyard I have been up a very steep learning curve, discovering the impact of soil, weather, pests and diseases on the beleaguered grape. Luckily, I have met and been guided by other vineyard owners who have generously shared their experience of viticulture, and for the winemaking by some wonderful experts, first through the Bolney Wine Estate, now with winemaker Dermot Sugrue and the Wiston wine family.
The early plantings of the vineyard were established in the year 2000 by local entrepreneur and enthusiast John Gibert who created the concept of a co-operative of local people who would share the work on the vines and have a share in the final product. I extended and further developed the co-operative and we now have a wonderful group of wine and vine enthusiasts who share the joys and tribulations of our joint endeavour. We have a waiting list of people interested in joining our community and there is never a problem in raising a harvest team.
I hope you enjoy Smock Alley sparkling wine as much as we have enjoyed creating it.
Jac - Viticulturist
Jac takes full responsibility for care of the 3200 new vines planted in 2015 as well as keeping a watchful eye on the health and well-being of the older vine plantings. With her particular skill in handling our quirky but characterful Kubota with its bespoke mechanical weeder, Jac looks after the weeding of the vineyard which is achieved almost entirely without the use of chemical weedkillers.
She can turn her hand to any job in the vineyard and has also become a dab hand at the titration and grape juice analysis as we begin the anxious process of monitoring the ripening crop in the run up to harvest. With husband Steve, Jac is also a member of our vineyard cooperative and stays on after work or on the weekends with Steve to care for their five rows of vines – four rows of Chardonnay and one row of Pinot Noir – a total of over 300 vines.
Andrew – Building and Landscaping
It was Andrew’s wife Chris who, in the summer of 2013 discovered the vineyard for sale on rightmove and told Andrew about it. Andrew was building a kitchen for Sarah at the time and had heard (many times) about her vineyard dreams. A bottle of the vineyard product (the 2007 vintage) was promptly obtained and with assistance from Andrew, tasted and deemed delicious, the vineyard was visited and purchased, and the serious planning started.
Over the next couple of years there followed a programme of ditching & hedging, laying drainage pipes, extensive work to the trees surrounding the site, building tractor & tool sheds and a chalet for the workers as well as refurbishment of much of the vine trellising (which had seen better days). Andrew turned his hand to all the jobs and by 2015 we were able to start planning the planting of our new vines, an exercise which doubled the size of our little vineyard.
Andrew and Chris have been with us since the start of this adventure and as members of our co-operative, look after four rows of our Chardonnay vines. When he’s not in the vineyard, Andrew runs his own business AK Building and Landscaping.
George – Mechanic
MEET THE EXPERT
We enlisted the help of expert winemaker Dermot Sugrue, whose previous experience with French champagne house Jacquinot & Fils, and developing the Nyetimber and Wiston ranges of sparkling wines puts him at the forefront of the English wine industry. Dermot’s invaluable expertise is helping us find the distinctive terroir of our little vineyard to create a wine of distinction.
MEET OUR FRIENDS & PARTNERS
MEET OUR MEMBERS
Terry & Maggie
Maggie had been out for a walk with Bilbo the dog when Bilbo went exploring and discovered the vineyard. We could hear Maggie calling for him and by the time they had been reunited, Maggie had become enchanted with the vineyard and asked to go on the waiting list to look after some vines with husband Terry.
Terry and Maggie joined the vineyard cooperative in August 2018 and they look after a row of Chardonnay vines at the eastern end of the vineyard and a row of Pinot Noir vines at the other end of the vineyard. As two of our most local members, Terry and Maggie have been able to help us out at our open days, showing visitors around the vineyard and describing the work required to keep the vines in shape.
Terry is also a wonderful photographer and has provided many of the photographs we use in our publicity material. A big passion in their lives is the charity they have set up and manage, the Eleanor Grace Foundation, which supports a range of small charities based in Sussex.