IT MAY not be Champagne or Chard-onnay, but Francis Young is aiming to put Swindon on the wine map as he celebrates a bumper crop.
The owner of the Pear Tree, at Purton, has long dreamt of producing his own wine, and after many years of hard work, he is now reaping the rewards.
Six years ago, he planted 600 vines – a mile of them, in 22 rows – and he is now collecting the Seyval Blanc grape that, despite a wet and miserable year, has shown enough sturdiness to produce a good crop.
A warming climate has encouraged wine producers to set up business in England and compete with the French and Italian markets. Vneyards now cover 3,500 acres of countryside.
Francis has bucked the national trend this year with his wine, with many producers being left counting the cost of this year’s dreadful weather after the wet summer washed out many of this year’s harvest.
He said: “I have three grape varieties, the Pinot Noir and the Huxelrube were rubbish and did not do very well but the Seyval Blanc has been brilliant.
“It just doesn’t seem to care about the weather and has produced a bumper crop.
“It has been terrific being able to produce my own wine and the response has been terrific.”
Last year Francis produced 200 bottles of Cuvee Alix, named after his daughter and made from Seyval and Huxelrube grapes.
The label stated that Purton is near Swindon, meaning Cuvee Alix was probably the first wine to bear the name of the town.
Francis is married to hotel co-owner Anne and the couple have two children. Edward is the front office manager at Dubai’s Royal Mirage hotel, while Alix is a radio journalist.
The vineyard came about after the couple decided to split one of the fields at the back of the hotel between them.
Anne turned her part into a wildflower meadow, wildlife haven and buddleia walk, while Francis created his vineyard, choosing grape varieties suitable for the English climate.
Francis has also produced a sparkling wine named after his wife and next year is hoping to produce a red wine named after his son.
“It has been a long process but now I have to say the wait has been worth it,” he said. “It’s been a steep learning curve. You get into things you didn’t anticipate getting into, things like soil sampling.
“My plan is that next year I want to plant some red that will be called Cuvee Edward after my son.
“It was actually too dry in April to plant that this year.
“My dream is to be able to do weddings and events where all the wine that is drunk is produced at the hotel.”
The wine produced is available only to visitors to the hotel.
The hotel’s website is at www.peartreepurton.co.uk, and its telephone number is 01793 772100.