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History - Ancient

The Romans planted vines in Britain and since then vineyards became a small but integral part of rural England. But for all sorts of reasons they slowly declined until by the 19th century only one or two remained. The annexation of the Bordeaux vineyards during the reign of Henry II provided wine aplenty and hundreds of little ships with their quota of casks in the hold plied their way up-Channel and beyond. Later the monastic vineyards suffered under Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries and were abandoned. As time went by transportation of goods to and from Europe became easier and viticulture declined even further. The need for a home-based wine industry had disappeared.


History - Modern

Around the middle of the 20th century Edward Hymes and Ray Barrington-Brock began experimenting with grapevine trials and started the re-birth of viticulture in England. Sir Guy Salisbury-Jones planted the first commercial vineyard in 1951 at his estate in Hambledon, Hampshire. There are now about 400 vineyards across the south of England and into Wales.



History - Modern continued...

Peter Hall planted his vineyard at Breaky Bottom in 1974 at a time when there were only a dozen or so growers in the whole country. He had come to realise that there was a good potential for grape growing and winemaking in the UK where the climate is very similar to that of the near continent (The Loire, Champagne and much of Germany). Modern plant breeding and selection meant that early ripening varieties were becoming available and the demand for clean, elegant cool-climate wines was growing.

Breaky Bottom is an isolated farmstead set in a beautiful secluded valley in the South Downs. There are six acres of vines and a flock of 40 ewes graze the surrounding steep banks.

In the early years the vineyard's reputation was established making elegant Loire-style wines with the variety Seyval Blanc. The 1990 vintage won a Gold Medal in the 1993 International Wine Challenge. Seyval Blanc is still the principal variety but now the vineyard produces 100% sparkling wines following the Méthode Champenoise to achieve a high quality Sparkling Brut. More recently the classic Champagne varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier have also been planted.

Peter always had strong links with good wine and food which encouraged him to take the undoubted risk of making wine in the UK. He had a French mother who was a fine cook and his grandfather had been a famous restaurateur in Soho before the First World War, with a fabulous cellar. Wine had always been part of family life.

Although Breaky Bottom is a small scale family-run business it is able to produce top quality wines which have gained a reputation for excellence and which command a premium in the sparkling wine and Champagne market. Attention to detail is essential. Care of the soil and the vines ensures that only clean ripe fruit are harvested in the autumn, allowing the full expression of terroir unique to each vineyard. Over the years investments have been made in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and a cellar, both crucial for quality wine-making.

The wine is highly regarded by many of the leading wine critics and journalists. Oz Clarke in BBC Countryfile Magazine said "There's no more beautiful vineyard in Britain than Breaky Bottom." In Harpers Wine Magazine he wrote "The wine I'm fondest of and feel emotionally closest to is Breaky Bottom. It's a lovely, maverick, emotional, romantic, joyous, individual original, just a one-off." The vineyard was filmed for the BBC series 'Drink to Britain' with Oz and James May. Breaky Bottom has appeared in the Top Ten of English wines in Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book for over 20 years. In November 2013 the International Wine and Spirit Competition short-listed Breaky Bottom for 'Best UK Wine Producer' award. The vineyard supplies the government cellars at Lancaster House. It is served at official functions including the Queen's Jubilee and the Olympic celebrations in 2012.