Michael Caines reveals plans for Lympstone Manor to become Devon's top wine destination
PUBLISHED: 17:17 22 October 2018 | UPDATED: 17:20 22 October 2018
©2018 Matt Round Photography
We've spoken to award-winning chef Michael Caines MBE to find out more about Lympstone Manor's wine celebration evenings and when their new vineyard will produce its first bottle of wine
“There aren’t any Michelin-starred restaurants or hotels in the UK that have their own vineyard,” says Michael Caines MBE, acclaimed chef and owner of Lympstone Manor near Exmouth.
“We are the first to achieve that, something that makes us distinctly different and a small part of the story of English wine.” The manor - based right on the Exe Estuary - officially became a part of that story in May 2018 when 17,500 vines were planted over 10.5 acres of land that has a microclimate in the top 5% of the country.
Although you won’t be able to try a wine produced here until around 2024, the manor has a number of events planned in the coming months that will firmly establish the hotel, restaurant and vineyard as one of the county’s premier wine locations.
Even before Caines had any information about the terroir - the conditions of soil and climate that gives a wine its flavour - of their proposed vineyard site, he instinctively felt that the south-facing location running down to the estuary would be perfect for growing grapes.
“That was just an inclination,” says Caines. “Once you have that you need to back that up with facts because it’s a big investment to undertake without that information, especially with the variety of grapes that I wanted to plant.”
With a little help from Devon winery Lyme Bay, the potential of the site’s microclimate was established with its low altitude making it less susceptible to frost, a vital factor for English vineyards as frost can be devastating to potential yields. A soil analysis was also completed to determine the root stock and now the vineyard has 50% pinot noir, 30% chardonnay and 20% pinot meunier grapes which will be vilified, stored and pressed at a local winery.
The first juice won’t be extracted until 2021 and there are many determining factors to consider until then, all of which will play into what sort of wines will be produced.
“Our vineyard and grounds manager James will work very closely with the winemaker to see what we can make and when. Our house style and the success of the year will both go into determining what style of wine produced while if you’re going to create a vintage you need at least three years aging - the whole process is very exciting,” Caines said.
While you wait to taste the first bottles coming out of the manor, there are a number of fantastic tasting events and dinner packages celebrating some of the world’s greatest grape growing regions to keep your tastebuds warm.
The first tasting evening celebrating the Burgundy region has now passed but on November 1 you’ll be transported to the chateauxs of Bordeaux to try a selection of exceptional, rare wines alongside a five-course menu developed by Caines himself.
Moving into the new year, the Rioja evening will run along the same lines as the Bordeaux evening on January 29. Throughout those months you will also be able to try distinguished wines from each region by the glass: “It’s rare to get such an accomplished list of vintage wine makers available and we searched very hard to get these wines to the property for us to open, taste and appreciate just how special they are,” says Caines.
Over this winter the manor will also be announcing new eating and staying packages with the vineyard adding yet another reason why guests will return time after time. “We have a living landscape and as the vines become established it will become part of the reason why people will come and visit,” says Caines.
“It’s not the sole reason though as people will keep coming for the wonderful food and its connection to the wonderful landscape. As we produce wine people will be able to have a context of our vineyard and we hope to be able to express our history through the wine. The wine we produce will then become part of the very story of the area.”
English Wine Week takes place every May and Lympstone will be celebrating the industry’s growth and showing guests their ambition to be part of that growth.
“This year has been the best year ever for English wine - we just got back from Nyetimber and this has been the first year where they’ve produced a million bottles, making it the first vineyard in the UK to do so. The interest in English wine - especially for sparkling - is growing and we’re going to be playing a small part of that story,” Caines said.
Although their official vineyard tour and experience packages have not yet been rolled out, many guests have been shown around the site on an informal basis to give them a good idea of what Lympstone Manor are trying to achieve.
With development also continuing on the ponds and the sculpture path, Michael Caines’ ambitious vision for his hotel, restaurant and vineyard is gradually coming together.
For more information on Lympstone Manor, its wine evenings and vineyard please follow this link.