UK wine production is in the ascendency. The UK is now one of the fastest growing wine regions in the world and UK wines are winning an increasing number of international awards. A boutique vineyard in Kent sought the help of R&BS to help it to develop and keep pace with the rapid growth and success of the industry.
Graham and Donna Barbour established Woodchurch Wine in 2009 with the purchase of 12 acres of land on the edge of the village of Woodchurch in Kent. Set on hills looking south over Romney Marsh to the English Channel, they could see the site had the perfect geography and conditions to produce high quality grapes for sparkling wine.
The Barbours planted just under eight acres of vines of classic Champagne varieties (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier) in 2010. The first harvest was taken in 2012 and the first premium sparkling wine from this vintage was released in 2015. A further 2.5 acres of Bacchus vines were planted in 2016 to produce still wine to help balance their product range. All wines are produced from grapes grown solely at Woodchurch.
Graham works full-time at the vineyard, carefully managing the vines by hand and supervising wine sales. Donna works as a website designer for a publishing company but is also responsible for Woodchurch’s labelling and packaging design, website, e-commerce and social media.
Expansion finance was hard to find
Following the success of their 2015 release selling to the public through their website, local independent wine merchants and restaurants, the Barbours planned investment in on-site retail and storage facilities. But their existing bank, who had supported the initial land purchase, was reluctant to support this logical next step. Local land agent, Hobbs Parker recommended they speak to R&BS.
Graham Barbour says, “I spent several months trying to arrange finance with at least three high street banks – after a great a deal of time and effort I was unsuccessful each time. But with R&BS on my side it was a different story. I was able to concentrate on the vineyard and the wine while Graham organised a loan and got approval in just a few weeks of our first meeting. There’s no doubt that we couldn’t have developed the business without them.”
Graham Sanders of R&BS helped the Barbours prepare a case for new mortgage finance to create a retail space with covered wine tasting terrace, bottle and equipment storage, a bottle labelling room, toilets, staff room, car park and landscaping – as well as refinancing the borrowing from their existing lender. With a clear business plan, financial forecasts and lending proposal, a mortgage was approved by the commercial team of a high-street lender and the funding was released smoothly.
The business sparkles after investment
The new building was completed in 2018. Since then the vineyard has gone from strength to strength. They sell through over 25 wine merchants and restaurants and direct to the public through their website and new building. They offer their own vineyard tours and are a regular stop on the Tenterden area wine trail and organised local wine tasting tours, along with nearby Chapel Down and Hush Heath estates.
The perfect growing conditions combine with Graham’s meticulous attention to detail and expert management to produce award-winning sparkling wines. Most recently their Sparkling Rosé 2015 won a gold medal at the 2019 Independent English Wine Awards (IEWA), competing against 132 other English wines.
In 2017 the conditions were perfect to create grapes of the right sweetness and acidity to make their first 1,300 bottles of still wine. Their 2017 Chardonnay was launched in April 2019.
R&BS will be helping with further development finance
The Barbours are now looking to invest further to improve and enlarge the visitor facilities and to move wine production and more storage to the Woodchurch site. They will once again be supported by R&BS in their search for suitable finance.
Graham Sanders says, “Woodchurch has made great progress since its establishment. The Barbours’ commitment and knowledge are excellent, and their awards are testament to their hard work. R&BS have been delighted to follow their success and we look forward to working with them and finding a lender who will help them finance the next development phase on competitive and appropriate terms and provide a supportive ongoing banking relationship.”
More about Woodchurch
For more information about Woodchurch Finest English Sparkling Wine, to book a tour and to buy their award-winning wine, please visit the Woodchurch website.
If you are looking for finance for your vineyard or any land-based business, we’d love to talk to you to find out how we can help you. Speaking to us early in your plans gives you the best chances of success. Give us a call or email us.