Supporting a holistic approach and ensuring responsible recruitment
8th February 2023
Fruit & Vine spoke with Tom Bunting, owner of vineyard management company TBVM, to find out more about his business ethos.
Q: Tell us about you, and your background/experience
A: I have a horticultural background, and when my family business purchased Carters Vineyard and Winery in Colchester over 20 years ago, I was immersed into the world of viticulture. My vineyard experience is grounded in running all aspects of a vineyard, award-winning winery and tourism destination.
Q: Introduce us to the rest of the team
A: We have our core team based in Essex, Suffolk and Hertfordshire. Myself and my father Ben oversee the daily management and vineyard team, with the help of our supervisors Sarah Purkis and Simon Ward.
Sarah is studying for her Crop Technician qualification at Plumpton and has many years of experience in the wine and hospitality trade. Simon worked as our vineyard and winery tour guide before joining us to work in the vines and supervise the team. Jenny Taylor has a background in botany and runs our operations and establishment, alongside working on her family’s beef farm with its own micro-vineyard. And of course, we must not forget Tilly and Inca, the vineyard dogs!
We have a team of 15 people working in the vines seasonally, with more joining us at busy times. As a registered labour provider, I am particularly proud to have recruited our vineyard team locally, many of whom have now been with us for several seasons. It is great to see so many people keen to be involved in the industry and to train in viticultural techniques.
Q: Why did you decide to set up your own management company?
A: The management company was a natural progression. Landowners in the region realised the potential of diversifying and planting vines; they wanted advice, and did not want to
run the vineyards themselves. From this, the management company was born.
Q: What do you think are the primary challenges for growers, both those considering starting out and for the more seasoned growers?
A: For those starting out, an increasingly dry climate produces both opportunities and challenges. Factoring in the potential need for irrigation is important, as is investing time in selecting the correct rootstock and grape varieties for that particular site.
For seasoned growers, the pricing of grapes is key – especially for those in longer contracts. It is why we like to facilitate a strong and honest relationship directly between the grower and winery. A good relationship between the vineyard owner and winery is absolutely critical from the start.
Q: Where do you see the UK viticulture industry going in the next 20 years?
A: In the next 20 years I believe we will see a dramatic growth in the East and with it, new wines coming on to the market. There are so many opportunities for brands and wineries with the growth in wine tourism and we will see the development of a distinct Eastern wine region.
There is no doubt about it that East Anglia is a primary growth region, and certainly when I joined the industry over 20 years ago, no-one was talking about planting in this volume or anticipating the exceptional quality of grapes that are produced here.
Q: What do you consider to be the most importance piece of advice you could offer to a new grower in the UK viticulture industry?
A: Know what you want to achieve from your vineyard, whether this is a wine brand, tourism, grape sales, making your own wine or using a contract winery. All these need consideration and feed into vineyard design, grape selection and management. Obviously, as the vineyard matures, the business may develop, but careful consideration from the outset will help to ensure future sustainability and success.
Q: Who do you most admire/respect in the industry and why?
A: I spent time in New Zealand in the late 90s and was impressed by what they had achieved in a relatively short time, and the quality of their wines. The growth we are seeing in planting and wine tourism in the UK has the same feel of what New Zealand have achieved. It is an exciting time for the UK wine industry.