All About The Grapes

The grapes at the Salehurst Halt

A staff ‘training’ trip.

Some of the team were lucky enough to spend the afternoon at Chapel Down Vineyard, in Tenterdon, Kent, last month. Having been invited to tour the grounds and to take part in a wine tasting session, four members of the Halt team went along to learn all about English wine, and in particular, the brands made and sold by Chapel Down.

Having had a spectacular period of late summer weather the week before, that Monday saw the rain and the winds return, but the team were undeterred – donning suitable footwear and coats, they set off with the very knowledgeable Henry Buss leading the expedition through the beautiful vines. Henry explained the history of English wine, dating back as you would probably suspect to the Roman days, how King Henry VIII grew the industry, and how a great many vineyards were removed to make way for the war effort. English wine as we know it today was born out of a revival in the 1960s.

Starting with the oldest, the Bacchus grapes, the team moved on to learn how the grapes were harvested and the process of extracting the juice to make the wine.

INTERESTING FACT: Did you know that the very first bit of juice extracted from the grape is called the cuvée?

The team then learned about the ‘lees’, how the bubbles get into the sparkling wines, and the difference made by processing wines in either stainless steel or oak barrels. When you are privvy to the insider’s knowledge, you understand why some wines are so much more expensive than others – and why it is worth spending a little bit more on a decent bottle of wine.

And then…. onto the tasting. Here Chapel Down shared their knowledge on how to ‘properly’ sample wine, and gave the team 7 different (and may we add wonderful) different types of wine to try. Divided on which they preferred the most, the two favourites were a rose and a sparkling.

“We’d like to say a huge thank you to Henry, Charmaine, and all at Chapel Down for a thoroughly educational and enjoyable day at their vineyard. It set the Halt ‘pickers’ up nicely for harvesting our own grapes the very next day.”

Where Have The Halt Grapes Gone?

The day after the ‘staff training’ at Chapel Down, with the weather remaining as unfriendly, the wind and the rain as their constant companions, 8 and a half team members went to a (not very) secret location to spend six hours picking the grapes that we will ferment into our very own Halt Vintage Sparkling wine. It took two vehicle loads to get the grapes from site, and after dropping off the first container, Rachel returned with the most sumptuous lunch from our fantastic neighbours, Busters Farm Kitchen.

Six hours in mud not being quite enough, the next morning those beautiful grapes that cover the terrace were also harvested, added to the remainder and sent off to be converted into something scintillating and sparkly. We are most grateful to the wonderful folks at Carr Taylor who will work their magic, and help turn our raw grapes into our very own fizz that you can enjoy on your special occasions, birthday parties, weddings, anniversaries or whatever else you would like to celebrate here with us at the Halt.

The Halt Vintage Sparkling wine won’t be available for a while, it needs to be given the time to mature, but watch this space to find out the launch date.