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The Future Of Biddenden Vineyards – Interview With Tom Barnes

Exploring the English Sparkling Wine Producers of this fine nation is a breathtaking task, meeting the people involved in making it all possible, discovering their history, tasting the fruits of their labour and exploring the beautiful English countryside covered with vines that they maintain.

One of these English Wineries that we’re exploring today is Biddenden Vineyards, and it’s a must visit, with incredible award winning Wines and Sparkling Wines to try, with self guided and private vineyard tours, the opportunity to meet the winemaker and to experience The Grape Escape, a romantic couples’ getaway.

In this feature, I speak with the very forward thinking and charming, Tom Barnes, the 3rd generation at Biddeneden Vineyards, which is, in fact, Kent’s original vineyard, the winery has been owned and managed by the Barnes family since 1969, with the vineyard today being run by the second & third generations of the family.

Tell Us About Yourself & How You Became Involved In The Wine Industry?

“I wouldn’t say I became involved in the industry, more born into it which is something I’m very proud of and grateful for. It’s never felt like a job, more of a lifestyle which I guess has come from growing up around Biddenden. As a kid, you take on information without really realising what it means. I feel that’s a real strength in a family business as the end goal, the story and the vision are already imprinted on you from a young age. Growing up I didn’t study Viticulture, I went to Plumpton to study agriculture. I had a real passion for livestock and spent a further 8 years following that dream, big tractors and long hours working with cattle, it’s certainly instilled the work ethic in me. Outside of work, I played a lot of rugby growing up and enjoy good food and drink.”

What Part Of The Growing/Winemaking Process Do You Enjoy The Most?

“Two key times of year stand out for me, finishing tying down in the spring and the last day of harvest. Both have a similar feeling. Finishing tying down is the calm before the season ahead, wondering what will the season bring. At the other end of the year, seeing the last grapes in the press at harvest is really rewarding, an accumulation of a year’s hard work.

For me, the most enjoyable part really is that it’s hands on. You get out what you put in and you can be creative and push limits with the growing side. You work when it’s hot, cold, frosty or wet and it’s physically and mentally challenging, but the positives outweigh that. Wine is similar to cheese- taking something from the land and the environment that’s very specific to one place, the added layer of the seasons having its effect, putting your own twist on the end and finally sharing it with people is really rewarding. That’s exciting!”

What Can We Expect To See From Biddenden In The Next 10 Years?

“Family joke how many harvests have you got left? I’m 36 so I’m hoping more than 36 harvests to go but when you look at that as a figure and ask what we can expect from Biddenden in 10 years it puts things into perspective. Biddenden has always focused more heavily on our still wines than our sparkling range, we’ve been planting some different varieties for a few years now, Gamay being a particular favourite of my Dad’s, and more recently Gewürztraminer and Riesling. The next 10 years is a big question. On the wine side of the business, we have no plans to be huge. Biddenden is home and the vineyard and wine making is the passion, so a continuation of what we already do with some exciting new single varietal still wines being played with. Sticking with our values of making the wine in the vineyard.”

What’s Your Favourite Dish To Pair With One Of Your Sparkling Wines?

“The honest answer? Burgers, chips and beans! Homemade burgers, sweet potato fries and of course the one and only Heinz beans- don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!”

Where’s The Most Memorable Place You’ve Enjoyed A Glass of Bubbly?

“Most memorable probably has to be the most recent, some winter sun in Asia before we get busy again, rounding off the holiday 26 stories up at the SEEN bar looking over Bangkok Skyline. Not English Bubbles but Bubbles – pretty idyllic!”

Thank you Tom, for sharing your words, knowledge and experience with us and we at Glass of Bubbly wish you the very best for the future!

Images belong to Tom Barnes. Glass of Bubbly was granted permission to use them.

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