Our vineyard has already in its relatively new life had some incredible moments and following the release of our first three wines from the 2018 vintage this year we felt it was the perfect time to start sharing with your our stories from the vineyard.
We will be doing regular posts about the Hencote vineyard and our wine journey. For this first blog post though it seemed the ideal opportunity to say Hello to you with an introduction to our winemaking team at Hencote and in particular our winemaker Gavin….
Gavin Patterson, who hails from Zimbabwe started his wine career back in 1988 and has had an illustrious career of over 30 years. We managed to grab him for a quick chat out on the vineyard to ask him about his time working in the wine industry and at Hencote.
When did you first start working in the wine industry?
I was brought up in a Zimbabwean farming family and wine was always enjoyed at evening meals so I suppose it was culturally ingrained in me. It, therefore, felt like a natural step for me as soon as I left school in 1988 to take up the opportunity to do a Winemaking Apprenticeship in Stellenbosch, South Africa.
I completed my studies and returned to Zimbabwe in 1991 where I reclaimed an old vineyard called Green Valley which had originally been planted by Italians in the 1960s but now needed a total regeneration. This wonderful site became a perfect base for farming our tropical vineyard and we also made wine on site for a wine and spirits wholesaler. Over 13 years our production grew from the equivalent of 200 000 bottles to 1.6 million bottles for the national market.
So when was it that you were convinced of working with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay?
Growing fine wine remained my dream and I travelled to California and later Burgundy, the heartland of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, to gain further experience. It became clear that it was with these two varieties that I wanted to dedicate my career.
When and how did you end up emigrating to South Africa and settling in the Western Cape?
There came a point in Zimbabwe where it was impossible to provide a secure future for my family and we packed our bags and left for South Africa.
I worked as a manager and winemaker in the Hemel-en-Aarde area along the south coast of the Western Cape at Sumaridge Estate. The area is internationally renowned for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir primarily influenced by cold sea breezes channelled by Valley hillsides where vineyards have their roots deep in clay shale, decomposed granite and sandstone soils.
What is it that you like so much about these two varieties?
For me, personally it starts with the taste of these two varieties; there is an elegance, poise, grace, purity, focus, texture and finesse that comes from these grapes. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are referred to variously as the winemakers grape, primaeval and the heartbreak grape which I find intriguing and fascinating. The journey of discovery in growing and making these wines has always been and continues to be extremely rewarding…..I live this every day, what a pleasure!
Recently you seem to have altered course in the way you make these wines. Tell us about that.
Yes, many winemakers hanker after making a wine label of their own and a couple of years ago I finally realised this when I set up my own small side-line brand – Stonebird. I made two vintages in South Africa; a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir in Italian terracotta amphora. Using terracotta for me in the process is a true definition of site and man and it felt like the most honest expression of that – the what, where, who and why for wine making.
My life journey has now brought me to Hencote. I have of course brought my terracotta amphorae – known to all as The Ladies – with me. The terrain here offers a cool viticultural frontier and working with the estate grown Chardonnay and Pinot Noir I see as the greatest suitability to apply what I continue to learn with amphorae.
Have you found it a big change culturally moving to Shropshire?
No, not at all. Actually, despite being rooted as a proud Zimbabwean, we as a nation have filtered out across the world but – and I feel I can speak for my countrymen when I say this – that there remains a particular and huge cultural affinity with the UK. In my case when I moved here it felt that I found an important component of my life that had been missing. It felt like the right time to be here and really, it was as if I was coming home!
I’m really excited to see what we’ll be doing here at Hencote and I’m looking forward to putting my roots down in Shrewsbury.
Please check back next month for next update but in the meantime, if you would like to know more about Gavin and have the opportunity to meet him we are holding our inaugural wine dinner on Thursday 25th July 2019.
We are planning to have these events regularly and will be focussing on different wine regions, countries and grape varieties on each occasion.
For our first dinner we have chosen Italy as our wine country. We have selected some incredible Italian wines including Barolo and Amarone and our Head Chef Trystan Williams whose passion for Italian cuisine has been moulded by a number of years working with the renowned chef Angela Hartnett has created a spectacular Italian taster menu to complement the wine.
This special evening is a ticket only event and spaces are limited. For more details and to book your tickets please click on this link