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Marlings Vineyard toasts 30th birthday with awards in International Wine and Spirits Competition and Decanter World Wine Awards

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IT is fitting that in the 30th anniversary year of their Sway vineyard’s first ever harvest, growers Mark Barber and Paul Cartmell took home two global awards for their wine.

Marlings Vineyard in Mead End Road was planted by John and Patricia Wright in 1990, and produced its first crop of grapes the following year.

Mark and Paul took over in 2013 after moving down from London, replanting a third of the two-and-a-half acre plot with more classic sparkling wine grape varieties including pinot noir and chardonnay.

Marlings' Paul Cartmell and Mark Barber
Marlings' Paul Cartmell and Mark Barber

Their wines, which are made on-site by winemaker Piotr Nahajski, have garnered an impressive array of industry accolades over the years and 2021 has been no exception – the sparkling rose has picked up a silver medal in the International Wine and Spirits Competition and the still white also took silver in the Decanter World Wine Awards.

“If someone had told us when we took on a little vineyard in Sway that we would be winning international awards I wouldn’t have believed them,” said Mark. “We were up against the best in the world so this is something we are particularly proud of.”

The couple put their success down to the exceptional quality of their wine, the product of hands-on, attentive cultivation, and a commitment to maintaining the small-scale and sustainable nature of the business.

Mark (far right) and head winemaker Piotr with their volunteer picking team
Mark (far right) and head winemaker Piotr with their volunteer picking team

“It’s the quality of the wine that matters to us and that comes down to good housekeeping,” said Paul, who grew up on his parents’ farm in the north-west and has a background in marketing.

“With well-managed vines the quality comes through in the grapes.

“But it’s not easy and we are forever at the mercy of the weather. There was a frost in April which set the whole crop back by four or five weeks, delaying the ripening of the grapes.

Marlings Vineyard in Mead End Road, Sway
Marlings Vineyard in Mead End Road, Sway

“On average we produce between 2,000 and 3,000 bottles a year, but this year has been challenging and we know our yields will be lower – that’s life. It’s disappointing when you’ve been out there working hard in all conditions but we have to work with the weather.

“As a producer of English wine, climate change is working in our favour but we are still very much on the edge of cool climate wine production. There are around 700 vineyards in the UK, but of those only about 100 or so have their own winery.

“The rest either sell their grapes or get someone else to make the wine for them.”

Mark and Paul are helped to bring in the harvest each year by volunteer pickers from the community, including neighbours, friends and customers.

Marlings grows a range of grape varieties including pinot noir
Marlings grows a range of grape varieties including pinot noir

Grape varieties grown at Marlings include pinot noir, chardonnay, dornfelder, bacchus and seyval blanc.

“We are still a New Forest secret,” said Mark, who formerly worked in public relations. “Many people do not know this vineyard exists – but we have and will continue to focus on the New Forest.

“With all our stockists, be it retail or a restaurant, there is a connection and it keeps things special. With other vineyards, including Setley Ridge and Brook Hill, there is a friendship and genuine partnership whereby we help each other out and respect what the other does.”

Marlings supplies various shops and restaurants in the New Forest, including the Elderflower and East End Arms in Lymington, Cottage Lodge Hotel and Rosie Lea in Brockenhurst, Budgens in Sway, Welcome stores and Setley Ridge Farm Shop in Brockenhurst, Shappen Stores in Burley, and Shallow Mead Farm Shop in Boldre. Mark and Paul also supply Roots restaurant in Southbourne.

Customers can buy direct from their website at www.marlingsvineyard.co.uk

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