The village of Madehurst has seen its first vineyard planted this season. The passion project is the brainchild of Robin Hutson, Chairman of The Pig hotels and wine enthusiast, who has long hankered after making wine in the UK. Luckily, Madehurst Lodge – soon to be The Pig in the South Downs – presented the perfect opportunity.

The two-acre southwest facing field, situated directly in front of what will become the main restaurant of the hotel, is the perfect land for vines to grow. Previously used for grazing alpacas, this is where the team is now creating the group’s first vineyard; the free draining chalky subsoil with silt and clay, together with the elevation and orientation, offers prime conditions for planting the varietal vines of Champagne and Burgundy.

Huston and co have received encouragement and guidance from many of their UK wine maker friends, including Ian Kellett from Hambledon Vineyard in Hampshire and Charles Simpson from Simpsons Wine Estate in Kent, while the vineyard works will be carried out by one of England’s most experienced specialist contractors – James Dodson of Sussex-based firm Vine Works.

The Pigs’ own team of kitchen gardeners, headed up by Ollie Hutson and and Alex Coutts, together with input from the wine team and resident sommelier, Luke, from The Pig at Bridge Place, are all involved in nurturing the vines and eventually creating the wines.

4,000 vines have now been planted; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier together with a small quantity of a secret experimental variety. If all goes according to plan, the vineyard could yield up to 4,000 bottles of sparkling wine or 6,000 bottles of still wine. The wine team is remaining tight lipped for the moment about what styles they are hoping to make.

This is a long term project with the first harvest unlikely before 2022, Huston explains: “I can’t wait to taste that first glass, albeit a couple of years away yet. The investment further endorses our complete commitment to homegrown, local produce and to local contractors.  We will post regular updates from the vineyard as we progress. Wish us luck!”

The Pig in the South Downs is due to open its doors in early summer 2021, while The Pig at Harlyn Bay will welcome guests from later this year.