The UK’s newest sparkling wine launches in Devon.
- Credit: Photo: Steven Haywood
Silverton wine, with its notes of citrus and lychee, could be one of the most eco-friendly bottles of fizz in the country
It fizzes like champagne and has a unique flavour likened to the aroma of a hot English summer. Silverton wine, in its distinctive bottle, comes from a young vineyard near Exeter where the aim is to be as sustainable and ecological as possible.
But while the vines may be young, there’s plenty of history wrapped up in this sparkling wine - reflected in the bottle design which is based on Saxon jewellery.
Go back a few hundred years and you wonder what Jordan d’Exeter would have made of Silverton vineyard . This Norman knight from the de Courcy family controlled the city and surrounding lands, including Silverton, in the 12th century. It was only while in the process of setting up his 21st century vineyard, that Ivan Jordan discovered he is a descendant of Jordan d’Exeter.
His dad told him about it three or four years ago, says the Irish-born architect, who had no idea there was ever any family connection to Exeter, let alone Silverton.
Apparently, Jordan’ d’Exeter was later part of the Norman invasion of Ireland, where he built a castle and founded the clan of Jordan. Hence the link with Ivan’s family.
Ivan still seems slightly amazed by the link. “He may well have been here 800 years ago and may even have had a vineyard near here.”
It’s not too hard to imagine, this is good vineyard land; the oldest in the county, Yearlstone, which was set up in the 1970s, is only a few miles down the road.
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Land, place, people, permanence and history are all words Ivan uses to describe his Silverton ambition, which was to create a truly English wine, “one that tastes of our land and our vineyards,” he says.
From the outset, Silverton vineyard and the wine it produced had to be as sustainable and ecological as possible. That means growing with no chemicals, making the wine entirely on site, taking water from a natural well and using solar power. Using his engineering skills, Ivan converted an old chicken shed into a ‘pumping station’ for the well which supplies water to the vineyard and the winery runs entirely off solar power.
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The vines are planted further apart than normal; as well as growing less intensively, it allows the tractor he bought on eBay to go between the rows – he doesn’t have to invest in a specialist vineyard tractor. Grapes are tended, harvested and pressed by hand, in batches of 24 bottles.
Ivan and his wife Janice travel to the vineyard each day from their home in Exeter, where Ivan still has his architect practice. Janice has an edible flower business at the vineyard - rows of gorgeous blooms lie between the vines and the entirely off grid winery ‘shed’, built by Ivan, which houses the winemaking equipment.
During moments of downtime the couple can relax on their terrace and look out over the valley. Not that they have many quiet moments; the vineyard work has had to fit in to any spare time.
They started the vineyard 10 years ago and it was always a long-term plan. It grew from a love of making drinks and gardening.
“I used to make home brews as a kid – I was quite into making alcohol,” admits Ivan. They had an allotment in Exeter, where they grew veg and flowers organically and they also trialled a mini vineyard before making the Silverton leap.
It took a while to find the Silverton site. They used the services of an agronomist and had to borrow heavily to finance the purchase of the land. It was a struggle, especially at the beginning which coincided with the financial crash.
“We’ve had to really stick at it, you wouldn’t do this on a whim,” says Janice.
Ten years after planting their first pinot gris and phoenix vines, the couple are beginning to sell their first sparkling wine, under the house name of Jordan d’Exeter.
Their sustainability credentials are impressive, as is Ivan’s ‘secret’ winemaking technique. He’s developed a new method which replaces the need for inverting bottles to remove sediment – a champagne process which normally involves bottles having to be sent off site. He’s very excited about his machine which he designed and had built for him. He can create the same pressure as champagne, and it’s given his wine a unique flavour, one which is aromatic, fruity, dry and likened to “the aromas of a hot English summer”.
Ivan’s dream is for ‘the Silverton method’ to be used by others who want to set up small and affordable local vineyards, who want to make wine in the same sustainable way. He’s not into large scale, if he can set up a few more acres and employ a handful of local people, that would suit him. And if that model could be replicated elsewhere, providing local wine and local employment opportunities – then that would make him very happy indeed.
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