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Opinon & Lifestyle

Meet Ben and Lucy Hulland from Huxbear Vineyard

A Taste Of Devon - English Sparkling Wine Bottled For Your Delight

The Huxbear vineyard is set in the lush, gently sloping hills near Chudleigh in Devon. Ben and Lucy Hulland who own and run the business describe themselves as makers of boutique English wine, which neatly sums up their approach to wine making.

They don’t aspire to producing large volumes (the 16 acre vineyard currently produces around 15 thousand bottles per year). As Lucy explained, it’s all about producing unique wines that they can be proud of.

“Being an English winemaker has many advantages if you choose to work with nature rather than against it. Most of the world’s wine is produced in different conditions to those we enjoy here, which means we can create something truly unique and distinctive.

“Our growing conditions are closer to Champagne and the Loire than the more arid conditions that produce robust big reds, for example. The climate and soil here bring out the delicacy and subtlety that a lot of discerning wine buyers are looking for.”

Distinctively Devon Wine

Establishing a distinctive ‘ place of its own’ in the world is something that English wine is starting to achieve. This could be down to the gradual maturing of the vines or the growing confidence of producers like Lucy and husband Ben, who firmly believe that they don’t have to mimic popular wine styles from elsewhere to be successful.

“If you take our signature Classic Sparkling Wine as an example, we use the Champagne method because it creates reliable and great tasting wines, but we’re not trying to create an English version of Champagne. We control the blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier very carefully and leave it to age on the lees for no more than 24 months. We also avoid oak ageing to keep the wine fresh and distinctively Devonian.”

Regionality is something that Lucy identifies as potentially the next big step in English wine production.

“Many of our vines are now over 10 years old. This maturity, along with the changing climate, have altered the characteristics of our wines significantly, producing more prominent and rounded fruit notes. It’s entirely logical that wines produced here will be increasingly different from those produced in the chalky soils and drier climate of the South East. There’s every reason to think that wines from South West England will continue to develop their own identity.”

Following a Dream

It’s great to hear English wine producers talking with such passion and self-confidence, particularly in the case of Lucy and Ben who started the vineyard from scratch following an idea inspired by a (possibly over-enthusiastic) wine tasting session. They sold up everything and moved to Brighton so that Ben could study winemaking at Plumpton College.

After qualifying, the search was on for a suitable site for a vineyard. This became available in 2007 at Huxbear Farm near Chudleigh in Devon. The gently sloping site was mostly South East facing, which offers ideal protection from late frosts. They also have some South West facing slopes that are reserved mainly for German grape varieties such as Schonberger and Siegerrebe.

When they started to plant vines Ben and Lucy were keen to retain the name of the farm. Looking up at the night sky they noticed that the Great Bear constellation was directly over the vineyard. This ties neatly with the name Huxbear. They like to think of their precious vines being under the watchful protection of the Great Bear. Bears are a common theme in their naming, labelling and marketing. That’s all part of fashioning something ‘ distinctively Devon.’

Sustainable English Wine

Creating a vineyard from scratch is a Herculean effort, particularly when the first 22 months are spent living in a touring caravan. Even today, the vineyard is entirely off-grid and powered mostly from sustainable energy. 

That passion, dedication and single-mindedness comes through in every bottle that leaves the estate and every sip of the wine.

And as for the future?

“We’re still experimenting, for example with our first rosé sparkling wine and our first blanc de blancs. We’re also building up the tourism side of the business. Beyond that we don’t have anything fixed other than to carry on making distinctive wines that we’d love to drink ourselves and can be truly proud of.”

Give their wine a try, today, you'll be pleased you did. Huxbear Classic Sparkling

Ben and Lucy Hulland, Huxbear Vineyard

Huxbear Vineyard Website