ANY day now at The Pear Tree at Purton, a customer will sip a summery white wine and ask: “Where did this comes from?”
And owner Francis Young will smile the smile of a man who’s achieved a cherished ambition, point out of the window at his vineyard and reply: “Over there.”
Five years ago, he planted 600 vines – a mile of them, in 22 rows – and he now has 200 bottles of Cuvee Alix, named after his daughter and made from Seyval and Huxelrube grapes.
The label states that Purton is near Swindon, meaning Cuvee Alix is probably the first wine to bear the name of the town.
“It’s been a slow process,” said Francis. “Five years is a long time and I’m not a patient person, but now I have to say the wait has been worth it. I would describe it as half way between Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon. It’s light, fresh, appley and citrussy – a nice, fresh summer wine.
“It’s been a steep learning curve. You get into things you didn’t anticipate getting into, things like soil sampling.”
Francis, 58, is married to hotel co-owner Anne, 57, and the couple have two children. Edward, 29, is front office manager at Dubai’s Royal Mirage hotel, while Alix is a radio journalist.
Francis began his winemaking project in earnest six years ago.
“We bought the vicarage 24 years ago and it came with two fields,” he said. “One was converted by Anne into a lovely garden, and that left another we weren’t doing anything with.”
The couple decided to split it between them. Anne turned her part into a wildflower meadow, wildlife haven and buddleia walk, while Francis created his vineyard, choosing Germanic grape varieties suitable for the English climate.
Because only 200 bottles of this first wine have been made, it is available only to visitors to the hotel, and costs £19.50 a bottle.
It is made from grapes harvested last October and transported to the Halfpenny Green vineyard in Staffordshire, where the wine was made and bottled.
In future, Francis expects production to expand, and he is currently planning a sparkling white, to be named after Anne. If all goes according to plan, it will be ready in time to toast British gold medal victories at next year’s Olympiad.
The vineyard is also the location of the hotel’s beehives, and the Pear Tree’s honey is sold at £5 per jar.
The hotel’s website is at www.peartreepurton.co.uk, and its telephone number is 01793 772100.