A new English wine company sets its sights on becoming a top five producer
With the recent acquisition of Pookchurch Vineyard giving it a total of 124 acres (50 hectares) of vines, Highweald Wines aims to become one of the finest producers of English wine in quality and quantity.
Talk to beverage trade, managing director Robin Langton said he was looking for more land with the aim of having 250ha of vines.
This would place Highweald among the top five producers by volume, while Langton is also keen to produce premium wines. After spending three years as COO at Sussex-based Ridgeview Wine Estate, as well as buying roles at Iceland, Direct Wines and Naked Wines, he is also an experienced winemaker.
“The goal is to be one of the top five producers in terms of quality and volume,” he said. “We will focus on traditional method sparkling, but also produce still wine. For me, it’s a great opportunity to work with a company that’s coming into the industry, investing hard and striving for top quality. It’s nice to be able to oversee it from the business side as well as the production side.
Highweald bought Lakestreet Vineyard in Sussex from producer Fox and Fox in January last year, and a year later bought Pookchurch. Pookchurch previously had a connection with Bolney Wine Estate.
With investment from Cadman Capital Group, Langton is currently considering two further 70-acre plots, one in Sussex and the other in Kent, with the ultimate aim of establishing his own winery in Sussex.
“We are also in the established winery market,” he added. “I looked at several that came on the market. There are more vineyards for sale than ever before. If they’re right, they’re a good fit, and they’re not overloaded with other assets we don’t want, we’ll definitely review them. »
Langton thinks it’s important to have ambition and to have faith in what can be achieved in England. Prices for its sparkling wines will start at £30 a bottle, with a range of “slightly eclectic” wines priced around £50.
“English sparkling wine has been priced around £30, but my preference would be higher,” he said. “Our quality dictates that with the right winemaking and attention to detail, we can beat anyone. But for us to say we want to be a top five producer and sell everything at £50 would be somewhat naive.
“People need to have ambition and confidence in the wine industry of this country,” he added. “With all the other training around English sparkling wine, for me the real thing we need to push is quality.”
Not just wine
Highweald Wines is part of the wider Highweald Beverage Group, a company that also owns two UK breweries: Sussex-based 360° Brewing Company and Welsh brewer Conwy Brewery.
Together they have a combined capacity of 1.5 million liters of beer per year.
“They’re positioned quite differently,” Langton said. db. “Conwy is commercially driven and produces a lot of beer on tap. We reinvented 360 a bit and focused on hard craft beer. That means lots of NEIPA, foggy DIPA, east coast, west coast, acids, etc.
“We have already had great success in the craft beer scene in London and have created 35 new accounts in the last month. We are experimenting with a very good team and we want to get up there with the Verdants, Cloudwaters and Kernels of the world.
He said the two brands would remain separate and true to their roots, with a “refresh” planned for Conwy.
“It will always rely heavily on its tradition of being a proud Welsh brewer, and we would love to bring that to the rest of the country,” Langton said.
He is looking to acquire two or three other regional breweries with a strong identity to add to Highweald’s portfolio.