Elham Valley Vineyards
Elham Valley Vineyards started in 1979, and since 1995 has been run by the Vale of Elham Trust, a non-profit making registered charity (no 1046825). The two and a half acres of vines are used as a work and training opportunity for learning disabled adults.All the viticulture and vinification are carried out following traditional hand methods by the disabled. No mechanisation is used for several reasons – more work opportunities for the disabled, a cleaner crisper tasting product and a safer working environment. Similarly in the winery the grapes are made into wine using traditional techniques. The ethos is to provide employment rather than cash and to do it properly rather than quickly, giving the disabled a chance. Production varies from 650 to 7000 bottles per year depending on the weather at important stages of growth. No artificial forcing or accelerating is done.
Three varieties of grapes are grown; Seyval Blanc, Muller Thurgau and Reichensteiner. In both 1988 and 1994 wines won awards proving that traditional methods produce excellent wines.
The vineyard aims to be eco-friendly – grasses are allowed to grow among the vines encouraging insects which in turn control pests, thus through biological control methods, the need for pesticides is reduced.
Visitors to the vineyard can enjoy a pleasant day out, there is parking for cars and coaches, the site has good wheelchair access and disabled facilities, on fine days a picnic site can be used. In addition to touring the vineyard, either alone, or in a guided tour group which includes wine tasting, visitors can enjoy cream teas in the tea shop, and buy from a range of handicrafts and pottery, as well as wine, in the shop. An animal sanctuary exists in the grounds. Currently it includes Shetland ponies, pot-bellied pigs and birds, future additions may include chipmunks and tortoises. A pond has recently been created and a nature trail is being developed.
Elham Valley Vineyards produces wine in a traditional, sustainable way and at the same time provides meaningful employment for disabled people.