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A trip to the award-winning Meopham Valley Vineyard

10:13 25 July 2012

Archant

Many people return from holiday with grandiose dreams of ditching their jobs and escaping to the country... but most never go through with it.

For David and Pauline Grey, however, one wistful conversation after a holiday in France 22 years ago led to them quit London and set up what is now the award-winning Meopham Valley Vineyard.

It wasn’t a thirst for wine that inspired them. It was more a desire to try something new and they always enjoyed visiting local vineyards.

“It was one of those romantic ideas. Then you realise how much hard work it is, but it has enriched our lives,” said Pauline.

The couple, both both in their 70s, found a course on how to set up a vineyard and learned the secrets of growing grapes.

Next they found a four-acre plot of land in Meopham, bought 10,000 vines and roped their four children and their friends into planting them one by one.

Three years later, the first grapes were ripe and ready to be picked – and months later they had the first taste of the fruit of their labour.

Since then, things have moved on from their kitchen table and Meopham Valley wines are now sold across the country.

“It was more like a hobby when we started and we only sold it locally,” explained David. “Whether we expand any more we don’t know.”

The couple have taken on a wine expert, Janette Kelly, who both manages the upkeep of the vineyard and promotes it across the country.

The quality of their wines is evident – they have just won a gold medal at the UK Vineyards Association 2012 awards for their best-selling sparkling white.

But wine-making doesn’t come without its stresses, and with a business dependent on how well plants grow, a rainy period like at present doesn’t bode well.

“One year we lost everything. But you prune it and start again. This year it might be a bad one because of all the rain. They haven’t flowered yet and the grapes grow from the flowers. We normally harvest in September but it will be probably October this year,” said David.

When it comes to harvest time, the couple invite local families to come down and spend the day picking the fruit, and share a bottle from previous vintages.

During the rest of the year anyone can book a tour of the vineyard, which is hidden away in the idyllic “Happy Valley”.

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