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 Anoasis
of wine
Ark Wines may well be a little slice of paradise for wine lovers in Suffolk. Our own wine guy Martin Higginson & Susanna Heath visit to hear their story and taste their wines
Hans Engstrom, a successful Swedish composer, became disillusioned with the music and film industry where he’d made his name.“I used to love the interaction with musicians but when it changed to just me in front of a computer it became no fun anymore”, he explains. So he decided to follow his dream and set up a vineyard and winery in East Anglia. “I knew Norfolk and Essex, but Suffolk wasn’t somewhere I’d looked before”, he admits, but when an opportunity came up to purchase a long-abandoned chicken farm near Hartest, Hans moved quickly to secure this ideal site. “It’s on the top of a hill so we get lots of sun and a good breeze too, and is virtually off-grid while also being accessible to Stansted airport, Cambridge and London. It had almost been taken over by wildlife, it was an idyllic spot with ponds, woods and loads of potential”.
That idea of it being an oasis of calm soon became even more important when Covid and the first lockdown hit. “The family gradually migrated here and the whole place became a bit of a sanctuary with all generations coming together to restore buildings and develop a home and a business together”. It’s this aspect of the story, part Darling Buds of May part A Year in Provence, that gave rise to the eventual name of the vineyard and the range of wines: Ark. “I thought Mount Farm Vineyards sounded too beige, we wanted something more bold and individual to reflect our intentions with the wine.When lockdown
came along it could have been apocalyptic for us but when everyone came home it became a kind of Eden or an ark to ride out the storm, so we took our name from that idea. It fits in, too, with our sustainability policies and our solar-powered winery.” Hans appointed a local company, Seed Renewables Ltd, to design, supply and install a 20kW solar array with battery storage providing green power to
the vineyard.
Hans has a good knowledge of wine but it’s
his daughter Amanda who has the technical knowledge gained through taking her degree in Viticulture at Plumpton College in Sussex. “My last year at Plumpton coincided with the lockdown, and winemaking isn’t really a topic that you can study in an online format, so I was spending more of my time in Suffolk learning on-the-job. We started off planting 10,000 vines, mostly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and developed the winery. My role is really the operational manager and Dad is the ideas man. I do sometimes have to reel him in as he comes up with so many good ideas!” she says. The number of vines has now doubled with Pinot Gris, Bacchus, Gamay, Riesling & Pinot Meuniere varieties now planted. Between them they also decided to follow the path of producing still rather than sparkling wines, and also to produce red as well as white wines. “I’m thinking of the future,” says Hans, “and I believe that in 10-15 years with climate change Suffolk will be perfect for still wines and I want to be
establish the foundations here that Amanda can really develop for the future.”
Hans also has a vision of the future for wines produced in Suffolk. “I’d love to see the various wine makers around here coming together to make a Wine District, to promote all aspects of the business, not just the individual wines but the area as a whole. Looking at the tourism and marketing advantages by doing so, it’s clear it would massively gain the possibilities of the whole region.” Amanda has also been planning but for the more immediate future. “We’re currently working on our
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