Norfolk mixed farm seeks partnership in new vineyard venture
4th September 2023
Fruit & Vine chatted with Worstead Estate co-owner Bruce Paterson about his plans for establishing a vineyard on his Norfolk site.
Q. What prompted you to consider diversifying into viticulture?
A: As an arable enterprise, part of the site has proven to be lower yielding when planted with combinable crops compared to other parts of the site. At the same time, it’s south-facing, with sandy loam soil, 5–35m above sea level and surrounded by woodland with a spring-fed reservoir at the bottom, so after doing some research I realised it could be ideal for planting a vineyard.
I had a chat with specialists Vinescapes, who attended the site and carried out a brief survey, which confirmed my thoughts around its suitability for vine-growing. So now we’re looking to find somebody to partner up with us in terms of establishing and potentially managing a vineyard of around 60 acres in total.
Q. What is the terroir like at the site?
A: In Norfolk, we don’t necessarily have the heat of the south coast, but we do get a lot of sunshine. The intriguing thing about our site is that it’s the only hill for miles around, so it has a very niche microclimate.
We also sit in a very unique avenue between the sea and the inland, where we actually benefit from the weather of both, but are not exposed to the extremes of either. The sandy loam soil means there is the potential for really strong root growth, and drainage is excellent.
Q. What are you looking for in terms of partnership options?
A: In a nutshell, we’d like to find somebody who likes the idea of being part of a community of small businesses that all have their own speciality in terms of their own industry, while forming part of a much larger mechanism.
We wouldn’t necessarily be looking to sell the land, but we would certainly be willing to lease it; this could be on a long-term lease so that essentially, it’s safeguarded in terms of the business coming in; they would have a really good starting point to get themselves up and running.
Also, we’ve already created a wedding venue with holiday lets; there’s further plans to build a restaurant and an on-site shop, so there would be ready-made outlets for a locally-produced wine, benefitting all the different businesses involved in the site.
Q. What are your thoughts on the English wine-making industry?
A: In terms of the industry itself, I’d say it’s up-and-coming, and easily a force to be reckoned with; but no one in the traditional areas of Europe wants to admit it.
Norfolk is a very lucrative area in terms of second homes and holidays from London, so it’s a well-placed and ready-made market for this type of venture, plus there’s only a handful of vineyards of any scale in this area.
And, with the model we’re looking at, it allows somebody to come in and really push their skills and knowledge in a geographical area which is virtually untapped.