Many of the newer entrants into English wine production have spent much of their careers outside of the wine industry, but not so Guy Smith. He's spent his working life in jobs as varied as a wine retailer, Champagne representative and currently wine trader. He's worked with companies from United Distillers to Brand Phoenix, but Smith & Evans is his first foray into the farming part of the business.
He had toyed with the idea of owning a vineyard since the early 1990s, but finally took the plunge in 2007 when he and his partner Laura Evans sold their suburban property and bought Higher Plot Farm in Somerset. It was then a 3.5 ha site with a meadow, an old orchard and outbuildings. The orchard has been kept, and is used to produce bottle fermented cider. Their first apple crop was picked in 2008 and produced 600 bottles of cider which were released in 2010.
They began planting a 1 ha vineyard in 2008 on a south-facing former meadow which has calcareous clay soil. With plans to produce high quality English sparkling wine they planted 2,700 Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Munier vines which was later supplemented with 500 Pinot Munier and Bacchus vines. Their inaugural grape harvest was in 2010 and the grapes were sent off to the contract winemaking services of Three Choirs in Gloucestershire.
Wine made from Smith & Evans 2011 harvest was launched as a Pinot/Chardonnay still wine in June 2012. Their first sparkling vintage (2010) was launched in 2014 and was a Bronze medal winner at the International Wine Challenge, 2015.
A detached barn next to the vineyard has been converted into a 2 bedroom holiday accommodation, which is conveniently located for exploring the Somerset Levels.
The vineyard is only open for visits by prior arrangement with the owners.
(Images © Smith & Evans)