Planting New Vines at Biddenden

Late May Bank Holiday weekend saw a unique event at one of the oldest vineyards in Britain, Biddenden. It was believed to be the first ever public planting of a new vineyard. Fortunately, the Barnes family, who have owned Biddenden for three generation, not only own their own vineyards and make their own wines and ciders, but one of the sons owns and runs one of the country’s leading vineyard planting and management companies. So between them, they were able to showcase one of Kent’s finest vineyard operations.

Following a drinks reception where Biddenden’s Gribble Bridge Sparkling White, 2018 was served (or their own Sparkling Apple Juice if preferred) and the guests were treated to a humorous welcome and introduction by Julian, the second generation of the Barnes family to make wine on this site.

Following an instructive vineyard walk and talk, hosted by the team of guides, GPS guided automatic planting equipment was hitched to the back of the self driving tractor in a demonstration of state of the art vineyard management technology. Julian, winemaker son Tom, vineyard management sons Sam and Will were all on hand to give illuminating and entertaining talks about the history of Biddenden, the current developments and what we were actually seeing in front of us. In two sessions, a whole new field of Riesling was planted in the morning and a new plot of Schönburger in the afternoon.

Each session was followed by a tasting and pairing session in a majestically sited marquee overlooking the vines. Tom introduced four wines, each paired with a diverse and intriguing range of Kentish produced foods introduced by yours truly. To keep the whole thing in the family, the groaning platters of food were prepared and served by Sally and Lizzie – thank you ladies, we loved them all. Each wine along with its food pairings is shown below. Each product has a click through link to the producer’s website.

Gribble Bridge Demi-Sec Sparkling Ortega, 2019
Kent Crisps Oyster & Vinegar
Kelly’s Canterbury Goat Cheese
Zingiberi Bakery Captain’s Crackers : Sea Salt & Black Pepper
Karly’s Kitchen Seville Orange Marmalade

Ortega (Still), 2021
Hinxden ‘Tam’s Tipple’ Cheese
WJ Crouch Pork Pie
Moon’s Green Air Dried Ham
Zingiberi Apple & Hazelnut Cookies

Gamay Noir, 2022
Moon’s Green Beer Twigs
Ashmore Farmhouse Cheese
Karly’s Kitchen Cherries & Berries

Schönburger, 2021
Goupie Original Chewy Chocolate
Kingcott Blue Cheese – served on a Dark Chocolate HobNob (the only product not produced in Kent)

The whole day was an outrageous success enjoyed by everyone who attended and I have to say a massive thank you to the whole Barnes family for being such amazing hosts.

PS – the blue cheese on dark chocolate HobNobs was a real surprise for everyone – it’s delicious with the sweet wine – try it!!

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