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Wickham Vineyard back in business

Published:  01 March, 2013

Wickham Vineyard has reopened following a buyout from administration by its former manager Wilhelm Mead.

The new company, Wickham Wine Estates Ltd, will start taking orders next week when it will also reopen its Vineyard Restaurant. Tours of the vineyard have already begun and a new tearoom will open this weekend.

A total of seven staff work at the new company. It is headed by Mead, with Jonathan Rogers, who was the estate manager looking after sales and marketing; Julien Miran looking after the production; Paulo Silva dealing with IT; and Paul Dive returning as restaurant manager and chef. The company has also taken on Jessica Mead to look after weddings and events.

Under the buyout, Wickham Wine Estates bought the wine owned by the previous company, Wickham Vineyard Ltd. It will lease the vines, land and buildings privately from Nitin Parekh, who was also the previous owner of Wickham Vineyard Ltd.

Wickham Vineyard Ltd fell into administration in December after an unsuccessful move into retail. It purchased the leases to 14 ex-Threshers wine shops two years ago, which were rebranded as Wine Shak. The plan was to use the stores to grow direct sales to the public while also selling locally produced beer, but the stores soon proved a drain on the group’s resources with the vineyard effectively supporting loss-making shops.

According to administrators from Benedict Mackenzie, the vineyard’s problems were compounded by two consecutive poor harvests. In 2011 the company produced 40,000 bottles of wine compared with the previous year’s 105,000 bottles, while in 2012 it managed to produce just 5,000 bottles compared with an anticipated output of 115,000.

The Wine Shak shops are not part of the buyout and have been liquidated.

“There are a few of us who actually care about this vineyard and we could not let it just fall apart, especially when we know how good it can be, even supplying wine for the Queen at a Jubilee lunch celebration last year,” said Jonathan Rogers.

“It’s going to be very hard work as we have half the numbers of staff we used to have, but we are all prepared to put the time and effort into making it the success it was. We all have our roles to play but it also means that everyone will be doing a bit of everything.

“We know the vineyard can support itself as it has before. We have some major plans to turn the vineyard into a tourist attraction as well as producing award-winning wines as we have done for many years.”

Rogers said he hoped to re-establish trading relationships with the vineyard’s previous customer base. “Obviously we let them down in terms of supplying wine, so it’s a question of rebuilding the relationship,” he said.

The team pruned the vines over the winter in the hope that they would be able to reopen the vineyard and be well positioned for the 2013 harvest. Bottling of wine from previous harvests has also restarted.