Last weekend saw the official first day of sale of sparkling wine from Marlow’s very own Harrow and Hope vineyard. Those who had purchased in advance were invited up to the vineyard, where owners Henry and Kaye Laithwaite had organised an open day with tastings and tours of the vineyard and winery. TV wine expert Oz Clarke was there, giving an entertaining introductory speech and then hanging around to chat with the guests.
The vineyard has been 7 years in the making, and only now are the first two varieties of wine ready for release. We’ve tried the wines, and thought they were superb – in fact I’m still amazed to think that everything from growing the grapes through to the final wines has ALL taken place here in Marlow.
We spoke to Henry and Kaye about their decision to establish the business in Marlow:
Henry’s father Tom founded the well known Laithwaite’s wine merchant group, which also has a collection of vinyards and wineries, so it’s no surprise that Henry grew up with a passion for the wine making business. The couple’s first vineyard of their own was in France, but Henry and Kaye decided that ultimately they wanted to live in the UK, so the search was on for a suitable location for a vineyard over here.
The vineyard is about 6.4 hectares, and the typical Chiltern chalk and flint earth is ideal for growing vines. The site slopes on all sides – which helps drainage and helps reduce the impact of frost. The site also faces south, and the elevation was not too high either – both important factors, so in short, the site ticked everything on the list. What was also convenient was that the couple had already moved to Marlow, knowing that they wanted a vineyard somewhere in the Chilterns, and have since firmly established Marlow as the home for their family and their business.
What’s behind the name?
A harrow is a tool attached to a tractor for breaking up and smoothing out the surface of the soil. Poor soil is great for vines, but difficult to cultivate – and given the roughness and flint filled nature of the soil, every time they used the harrow they would just be hoping it didn’t break (again!)….
Approach to wine
Henry is keen on a very traditional approach to vine cultivation, with no herbicides, the goal being to build and maintain a healthy soil. The decision to create sparkling wines was also straightforward – our climate and soil type are ideal for the grapes used in traditional sparkling wines like champagne, and it is the category where the UK can, and already does, produce world class wines.
They are growing 3 varieties of grape, spread around different parts of the vineyard – and ferment separately in small batches, which gives them more choice and flexibility when it comes to blending the final wines. They plan on having a constant supply of the non-vintage Brut Reserve, and a Vintage Brut Rosé – 2013 being the current offering. In due course they want to expand the selection with a Vintage Blanc de Blancs (made from 100% Chardonnay grapes), and a Vintage Blanc de Noirs (made using black grapes only)
Already Award Winners
Before the wines even went on sale, they had already been entered into tasting competitions . To their great delight, the Brut Rosé 2013 won Gold in the first international competition it was entered in to, the Sommelier Wine Awards! The Brut Reserve also won a Silver medal, and both have won further medals at subsequent competitions too.
Where to buy the wines
You can get hold of the wine locally in two ways:
- Buy it by the bottle at Rebellion Brewery
- Buy it by the case at www.harrowandhope.com with free delivery, or collection from the winery.
Plans for the future
Henry and Kaye plan on developing their organised tours and tastings, and other group events. With some foresight they have installed an outdoor wood fired stove and a grill to enable them to cater for events. Watch this space, or their website!
See our gallery below for more images of the Laithwaites, their vineyard and the opening day. Click on any image to enter the gallery.