CHIGWELL: Couple find right spot for wine-making

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Alison Bayliss reckons to have found a corner of Essex just right for a vineyard Alison Bayliss reckons to have found a corner of Essex just right for a vineyard

A COUPLE who have turned their hand to wine making are hoping their grapes are the crop of the future for their corner of the district.

Alison and Graham Bayliss want to start bottling the wine produced on their vineyard in Chigwell after a successful first crop of red and white grapes.

Although the land around Waltham Abbey is known for producing salad crops, particularly cucumber, the couple do not know of any other vineyards in the district.

Mrs Bayliss, 48, who has been tending the 12 acres of vines in all weather for the past three years, said: “People are surprised it’s there, but it’s an ideal crop for that site.

“We’ve got a slope that gets the sun all day, which is really important with vines, and we’re really hopeful that it will go on to do very well.”

The former office worker said learning to look after the crops, which she does with two employees, had been a big learning curve.

“Each season has its own set of jobs,” she added. “This time of year, we’ve finished winter pruning and it’s important to keep observing the vines.

“You really embrace all the weather – I’ve been out in the pouring rain, but I don’t mind.”

The grapes grown on the yard, which include the Pinot, Bacchus and Fromberg varieties, have so far produced three vats of wine, which is maturing, ready to be transferred to barrels.

Mr Bayliss, 47, who runs his own heavy plant hire company, said: “For the first three years, we didn’t get any yield because you pick the grapes off.

“As a business, it’s a slow grower, but I’m interested in the London market and the quirkiness of the product.

“It’s not far from the centre of London and it’s always about two or three degrees warmer here than everywhere else, so grapes grow fantastically.”

Although he does not like wine himself, he said he had been told that the Pinot Noir produced so far tasted particularly good.

The couple, who live in Baking, are now waiting for permission to build a new house so they can live on the vineyard and an extension to house a bottling machine from Epping Forest District Council.

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