Meet John and Bridget Hemmant of Chet and Waveney Valley Vineyard in South Norfolk
Who are you and what do you do?
We are John and Bridget Hemmant and we are Chet and Waveney Valley Vineyard. John, the winemaker, is Norfolk born and bred and is the son of a Norfolk farmer from Sisland where his older brother Paul continues to farm. Bridget works in the NHS and also teaches at the UEA Medical School and they have a daughter Ruby, aged nine.
Where are you based?
Chet and Waveney Valley Vineyard is based in Bergh Apton in South Norfolk. The wines are made solely from Chet and Waveney grapes which travel less than a quarter of a mile from the vineyard to the winery to be crushed (or whole bunch pressed when making sparkling wine), pressed, fermented, bottled and finally labelled all on site.
How big is the vineyard?
It has five acres of established vines planted six years ago and another six acres were planted last year. There are another 10 acres that the vineyard has acquired which will be planted over time, as we gradually expand.
What grapes do you grow?
As the UK is cooler than many other wine growing regions, we have planted vines that grow well in a cooler climate and can ripen with the limited sunshine hours that we have in East Anglia. Norfolk is a county with a maritime climate of sea breezes that help reduce fungal attack and a lower rainfall compared with the rest of the UK. The white grape varieties grown are Solaris, Phoenix (son of Bacchus, the so called grape of East Anglia), Bacchus, Schöenburger, and Seyval Blanc. The Phoenix and Seyval Blanc are used for the flagship Horatio sparkling wine, made by secondary fermentation in the bottle. Regent, a cool climate red grape, is also grown and is used for blending to make the pink sparkling wine, and the newly planted red grapes Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier will also be used in the sparkling wine, going forward.
How did you get started?
John always worked on his dad’s farm and also read chemistry at the University of Keele. With this background, he saw wine production as the ideal match to his skills and experience. He first planted a vineyard on his father’s farm about 30 years ago and produced a sparkling wine which won a silver at the then East Anglian Vineyards Association. He moved away from Norfolk but returned 10 years ago when he married Bridget and planted a new vineyard in Bergh Apton.
What do you produce?
The main product is an English sparkling wine called Horatio. There is a pink version in which wine from the grape variety Regent is added. We also produce two still wines and a rosé wine. These are single varietal wines of Solaris, Schöenburger, and Regent. And we have a cider, Bergh Apton Wassail, too!
Any future plans?
We are applying for planning permission to build a new winery as we have outgrown the space currently available. We want to run more tours and tastings over the next year plus courses on viticulture (such as a pruning masterclass) and viniculture. We are also setting up a diploma which will be available for school leavers who may wish to take a gap year and get a qualification before moving onto university or college.
Can we visit?
Yes, we run regular tours and tastings by appointment. A selection of wines are offered with local cheese and Norfolk charcuterie as an accompaniment. Tours are £12 per person.
Where can we buy your wine and cider?
They can be bought online or from us in Bergh Apton. They are also available at Green Pastures Farm Shop in the village.
How has Norfolk Food and Drink been able to help you?
Through Norfolk Food and Drink we have discovered a great network of local producers with whom to share ideas and marketing initiatives.
Published in Feast issue 24 – March 2018