Knowledge of wine, knowledge of beer, owner of a Lancashire vineyard, winemaker, mother of two, oh and works for the Co-op as a drinks buyer – where does Sarah-Jane Wilson (better known as SJ) find time for it all? “My husband does the growing and I’ve put myself forward as the wine maker”, she said, “we all like wine – we just enjoy the liquid.” But how did she start on this road to winedom?
It wasn’t through family tradition that’s for sure – “my dad was an accountant and my mum did bookkeeping and wages.” But she admits she has always been interested in alcohol and this really got a boost when she went to university to study textiles and marketing and worked behind the bar.
SJ started working for the Co-op 15 years ago when she was in her late 20s. But buying beers, wines and spirits wasn’t enough and six years ago she and her husband planted their six acre smallholding with grapes of all kinds: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier (the classic group of three varieties that go into Champagne) plus two grape varieties more often seen in English vineyards – Rondo (a red grape) and Solaris (a white grape gaining in popularity).
This summer’s excessive sunshine means that she expects her unusually ripe grapes to ferment into a very reasonable 12.5% alcohol by volume: “wasps have been very interested in the grapes this year – probably the sugar levels.”
This year saw the release of her first ‘vintage’ of Herdsman Sparkling – which unfortunately is not yet on sale – but already has hotels and restaurants calling up about it. “Hopefully we will have something for sale next year. I don’t think we’ll have an issue selling it.” She then added, “we aren’t even advertising.”
SJ believes the future for English wine is rosy: “English wine growers and their market will go from strength to strength. It’s all very positive.”
If you want to find out more about SJ’s wines then you’ll find her on Facebook as Herdsman Vineyard.
PG Wine Reviews
Co-op Irresistible Limestone Rise 2016, English white
The English version of a Pinot Grigio with its flavours of almond, apple and lime.
Co-op Irresistible French Marsanne 2016
A nice wine with subtle flavours of pears and honey.
Co-op Irresistible South African Chenin Blanc 2017
Think fresh pineapple and you’ll have it.
Co-op Irresistible Australian Chardonnay 2017
A little lop-sided with the richness of creamy pear and melon. Could do with a little lemon flavour to balance things out a bit.
Co-op Irresistible Chilean Sauvignon Blanc 2017
Rose and gooseberry arromas, followed by limes and grapefruit in the glass.
Co-op Irresistible Argentinean Malbec 2015
Mocha and plum.