On my bike today a mile up the road from Framlingham, to see Tom Jarrett of Shawsgate Vineyard. Shawsgate is one of the oldest commercial vineyards in East Anglia and has consistently won national and even international awards for its wine. The 20 acre vineyard produces white grape varieties: Bacchus, Reichensteiner, Seyval Blanc, Muller Thurgau, and Schonburger, with some of the vines dating back to the early 1970s when the vineyard was set up. As for reds there are three plots of Acolon and Rondo.
For most of the year the vineyard is very tranquil and a haven for wildlife and birds. Come late September/October the harvest starts. The team of about 20 pickers is a real cross-section of society from local ladies who've been doing it for years and also pick for other local vineyards, to travellers and seasonal workers. Tom tells me they've even had city workers volunteer on their holidays.
Shawsgate is unusual in having its own state-of-the art winery and makes wine for many other growers in the region, including Wyken, Lady Carla Carlisle's vineyard near Bury St Edmunds.
The winery was built in the late 80s and is equipped with over 300 stainless steel tanks based on a New Zealand model. Tom show me around and explains the process: the press is a rotating cylinder containing an air bag that slowly inflates, gently squeezing the grapes to release their juice. From here the juice goes in a large tank where fermentation happens then it's bottled and left to rest.
We visit the shop and see the range of white, red and rosé wines Shawsgate produces and we discuss how they have recently rebranded all the labels to give their wines a fresh modern look. We also talk about how Tom has withdrawn his product lines from supermarkets and and other retailers as the high duty on wine makes the margins very slim. Shawsgate prefer to sell direct to consumers or to the trade and you can enjoy Bacchus in several places including The Waterfront Cafe in Woodbridge.
You can visit Shawsgate most weekends for a self-guided tour of the vineyards or take part in their vineyard experience days. Food Safari is going to work with Shawsgate to offer a vineyard day with a difference where you can get hands-on for the day, pruning vines, picking grapes, even labelling bottles. Of course we'll throw in a good lunch and a wine and food matching session. Visit our web site for the details: http://www.foodsafari.co.uk/