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Date: 11/10/2017

Ever thought of having your own vineyard? Creating your own wine? We are seeing it more and more often - Restaurants, celebrity Chefs and adventurous individuals, who produce an own-label wine in collaboration with wineries they love.

Grapes varieties have been developed that suit our northern and unpredictable climate and although growing grapes may not be on your bucket list you would be surprised how many there are in the local area. In this case the Granary Hotel just outside Kidderminster , decided to produce their own label wine called “Gusto” a medium dry Rose. Gusto can mean many things including “taste” enthusiasm and excitement – words which very much underline the project itself.
The Granary’s two acre Market Garden was originally set up in 2007 with the help of Worcester County Council, for the training of adults with learning difficulties and mental health problems. The hotel created a 2 acre garden divided into sections on a classical “parterre” system using luxurious Hornbeam hedging. The continuing work is supervised by Amber Support Services whose clients have helped with the growing of the crop and which has given an added dimension to the project.
In Spring 2014 Richard Fletcher, owner of the Granary visited Martin Vickers and his team at Halfpenny Green vineyard and after a very informative meeting decided to go ahead and produce a wine. It was a decision based not so much on common sense as simply the need for an adventure with a good story line. Experience? Very little!
Richard comments “It really did seem to be a great addition to our already established Market Garden. The Garden already produces soft fruits, vegetables and herbs used in the Granary kitchen and with 2 acres, we certainly had the space to plant vines and add wine to our own produce.”
Halfpenny Green vineyard provided support and advice and helped source the root stock needed for planting. “ Without the advice and experience of Halfpenny Green I don’t think we would have seriously gone ahead with this project. It has been the help of Martin and his team that has given us the confidence to proceed-   and they have been with us every step of the way”
The 450 vines were planted in May 2014 with a Pinot Noir Precoce grape variety which was deemed suitable for the Worcestershire climate - including the strong winds experienced on site. The earth had to be ploughed and treated before the vines (which are about the size of a large asparagus) can be planted.  It then takes 3 years before there is any sort of crop worth talking about. In this period of time there is much to be done in encouraging growth whilst also containing growth and pruning at the right times of the year.
The area around the Granary has long been known for its rich soil and for the growing of fruit and vegetables and  so by year three there was the magic sight of clusters and bunches of grapes ready for picking. The process is made even more exciting by the realization that birds also delight in ripe grapes and can destroy an entire seasons crop if measure are not taken. In this case netting was deemed the most suitable deterrent.
The first harvest was in October 2016 . The best time for the picking date is dictated by sugar levels – so can be unpredictable and dependent on the weather. In this case the first crop yielded 410 kilos of grapes which in turn produced 325 bottles of Gusto Rose.
The grapes are taken to Halfpenny Green where they are weighed and tested and it is right then when the decision has to be made about what style of wine you want. The pressing is a computerized affair linked to the colour of the wine you want to produce. In this case the Pinot Noir grape is a dark blue/purple and can be pressed to produce white, pink or red. The 2017 harvest has just been picked and has yielded 550 kilos equating to about 480 bottles ready midway through 2018.
Gusto is now for sale in the hotel restaurant at £24.50 per bottle with a donation of £2.00 being made to Amber Support Services for every bottle sold.
The hotel has held a 2 AA Rosette award since 2008 and is proud to be able to offer the wine alongside its lunch and dinner menus. A new Head Chef Michael Windle is joining the hotel team in mid October. Michael was part of the team who set up the Oxo Tower on the South Bank as well as spells working for Meridien hotels and Nuthurst Grange. Part of the allure for Michael is the Market Garden and its potential looking forward. Michael commented  “ It is hugely exciting to join a dynamic organization where there is room for creativity and aspiration”