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VIDEO: Channel Island enjoys its first grape harvest

Published:  04 November, 2011

A tiny island in the English Channel, which is without cars or streetlights and is home to just 600 people, has become the world's newest wine region.

The first grape harvest took place on Sark last week, under the direction of famed Bordeaux winemaker Alain Raynaud, and as the first UK publication to be invited to the island, Harpers had ringside seats.

Around 30,000 vines were picked by hand and the first wine will be a still blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Savagnin, with a name yet to be decided.

As the first journalist to witness Sark's harvest, Harpers' features editor Laura Heywood was interviewed in the Sark Harvest Report by Bladesman Productions.

Overall, around 100,000 vines have been planted in Sark's vineyards, which span 11ha and include smaller parcels of Pinot Noir, Gamay and Albariño.

In two years, once the vines are more established, Sark hopes to produce a sparkling wine in the traditional Champagne method under the leadership of experienced Champagne winemaker Mark Quertenier. French winemaker Etienne Longuechaud and vineyard specialist David Pernet have also joined the winemaking team.

The company behind the venture, Sark Estate Management - set up by the multimillionaire Barclay Brothers who own the Telegraph Media Group and the Ritz Hotel - has invested £1 million in Sark's vineyards to date.

"We decided very early we wouldn't do it by halves," said Kevin Delaney, managing director of Sark Estate Management. "Over the past 18 months, Alain and his team have undertaken extensive analysis of the soil types here on Sark and have planted the varieties of grapes that will best thrive here."

Delaney added that Sark Estate Management is detemined to "put Sark on the world wine map for producing first-class sparkling wines and still white wines".

The first grapes are showing a good balance between acidity and sugar, according to Longuechaud.

"For this year we'll try to see how we can push the maturity and what we can obtain," he told Harpers. A still red wine could be a possibility in the future, he added.