Meet the country’s youngest vineyard owner
PUBLISHED: 10:51 17 September 2020 | UPDATED: 14:28 17 September 2020
Joe Beckett, 27-year-old founder and director of Kinsbrook Vineyard in West Chiltington, discusses English wines, viticulture and being the third generation to work his family’s land
Despite the delays and strange circumstances of the last few months due to the global pandemic, Kinsbrook Vineyard in West Chiltington has had a successful first year selling a newly released trio of debut wines. These include the flagship 2014 Sparkling Vintage Cuvée, made by celebrated local winemaker Dermot Sugrue, alongside a limited production Bacchus and Pinot Gris, produced from the own vineyard in the heart of the Sussex countryside, just outside West Chiltington.
“Our hand-crafted wines exemplify the potential of England’s viticulture” says Joe Beckett, who, at 27, is believed to be the youngest vineyard owner in the country.
“I grew up on a farm and I always had the privilege of having an outdoor space and crops growing in fields; I learnt all those practical farming skills and that was such a benefit from a young age.
“I had seen the commercial wine industry growing and around the time I was finishing university, it seemed like a logical choice that I could diversify into viticulture and wine-making. I realised it’s like you’re training for a marathon; you start tasting wine and if you concentrate correctly, suddenly your tastebuds start to notice things that they never did before.
“The truth is I couldn’t have done this without an existing business farming model and also, the foresight of my grandfather and father to purchase land in Sussex back in the ’70s and ’80s when it wasn’t as valuable as it is today and because of that huge privilege I had I was able to have low starting set-up costs.”
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Whilst Joe credits much of what he has learnt to other producers, who graciously answered his questions at wine tastings and industry events, Joe’s approach towards the business has been to learn and perfect his craft inside out. “I was aware of just how expensive everything was going to be, so out of necessity I refused to pay people to do the vineyard work. Someone quoted me around £20,000 to deer fence my first vineyard but that wasn’t an option for me, so instead I bought the materials for around £3,000, watched some YouTube videos, took a look at some other sites and learnt how to do it myself.”
Currently, certain plans have been put on hold due to social distancing restrictions, but the site continues to offer vineyard tours, wine tastings and a coffee shop where people can enjoy the setting and taste the wine. Joe has a list of exciting offerings for the year ahead, including events for the community, such as sparkling wine evenings and grape harvesting events. Larger projects are also in the pipeline with the building of a new farm shop café beginning in January as well as plans for glamping, secluded lodges and a wedding venue site, where Joe’s sister will be getting married next year.
Joe’s vision extends beyond the wine and encompasses the whole experience of what it means to grow, produce and enjoy wine with family and friends. And Joe’s favourite wine from the collection?
“The amazing thing about wines is that they’re supposed to be made for the right occasions. I have thought that they are all my favourites at separate occasions; the Bacchus is light and highly aromatic, so it’s great for warmer weather and the Pinot Gris is paired well with food as it’s mouth-coating and rich, but if I could pick one forever, I think life is always good and enjoyable so I would choose the Sparkling Vintage Cuvée and celebrate every day.”