17th May, 2021

Pioneering Worcestershire vineyard set for a sparkling future

Rob George 10th Apr, 2021

A PIONEERING Worcestershire vineyard is set for a sparkling future after being placed on the market.

Farmer John Ballard, who has farmed 120 acres at Shrawley for more than 50 years, established the Sixteen Ridges Vineyard in 2008 as one of a series of successful business ventures at Church Farm.

The thirty-plus tonnes of grapes grown each year are turned into a variety of wines – red, rose and sparkling – by Haygrove Evolution in Ledbury, and are sold under the under the Sixteen Ridges brand.

But now John is preparing the step back from the farming life and is marketing the 12-acre vineyard and the remainder of the farm through Worcester-based rural business experts Fisher German.

John said: “We really had no choice but to diversify as we are not a large farm. We have been involved in dairy and a wide range of arable over the years, but also with more unusual crops such as asparagus and salad onion.

“We opened a farm shop, sold dried flowers and also ran a variety of courses. We also developed a successful wedding venue, and originally, we thought that would be the perfect platform for us to market wines produced on site.”

John’s wife Anne, who started and ran many of the non-farming ventures, died in 2006 and the family decided to sell the wedding venue but to press on with the vineyards.

“We have the right sort of soil, and the fields involved are south and south-east facing and that combination has proved very successful,” John added.

“We had intended to produce wine and we have what is needed to do that, but the partnership with Haygrove Evolution has proved mutually beneficial and the wines are highly-regarded.”

Simon Day, managing director of Haygrove Evolution, played a key part in the establishment of the vineyard when he acted as a consultant to Church Farm.

“I advised John from the very early days when I was working as a consultant and really, we established our wine brand to ensure that we could use the grapes the vineyard has supplied rather than the other way around,” he said.

“All the factors for producing wine, such as soil type and aspect, combined with the superb management of the land, means that the vineyard produces what we regard as the finest fruit in the UK in terms of quality and consistency, and we have developed a very close working relationship which has resulted in many award-winning wines.”

The farm also includes two agricultural buildings, 62 acres of arable land and amenity woodland.

Tom Pike, of Fisher German who is handling the sale, said: “Church Farm is a very good example of rural entrepreneurship.

“The Ballard family have used the assets of their land to create a valuable crop which provides a very good income alongside more traditional farming.

“Sixteen Ridges is nationally renowned for producing some of the best wines in the UK and much of that is directly attributable to the work at Church Farm.”

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