Why Sheffield's home-grown wine could be a record-breaker

Steel City Wine is made from grapes grown at Whirlow Hall Farm
Steel City Wine is made from grapes grown at Whirlow Hall Farm
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Sheffield is renowned for its beer, but you may not know the city also produces an award-winning wine which is a force for good.

Volunteers at Whirlow Hall Farm Trust this week harvested grapes for the fourth vintage of its home-grown rosé, Steel City Wine.

Volunteers Simon Baddeley and Derek Henry in the vineyard with bottles of last year's vintage

Volunteers Simon Baddeley and Derek Henry in the vineyard with bottles of last year's vintage

The tipple is believed to be one of the most northerly wines made in the UK, and definitely the most northerly produced by a charity.

With the farm standing 263 metres above sea level, the trust also claims to be the nation's highest grape grower.

This year's bumper crop is expected to produce around 1,000 bottles, and the trust's chief executive Ben Davies has high hopes for the latest vintage.

"Last year's harvest was pretty grim but this year we think we have two-and-a-half times as many grapes so it looks promising - though we won't know for certain until next summer, when it's ready to drink," he said.

Some of the volunteers who helped harvest the grapes at Whirlow Hall Farm

Some of the volunteers who helped harvest the grapes at Whirlow Hall Farm

"I think the previous vintages taste great. If you put it in the context of a hill farm on the outskirts of an industrial city in the north of England raising funds to help disadvantaged children from that city, it tastes even better.

"Not only does the wine generate several thousands of pounds a year for the trust in sponsorship, it also helps spread the word about what we do here to those who may not otherwise know about us."

The vineyard was set up in 2010 by trust supporter Hugh Facey, whose Sheffield firm Gripple makes the products used to tether its 3,000-plus vines.

The vines took a few years to establish themselves before the rondo and solaris grape varieties growing there were first harvested and sent to Halfpenny Green Winery in Staffordshire to be turned into wine and bottled.

When it was ready, the rosé did not disappoint, securing a bronze medal at the English and Welsh Wine of the Year awards in 2015.

Anyone hoping to get their hands a bottle will be disappointed though, as the wine does not go on sale.

Instead it is distributed to the individuals and organisations who sponsor the vines, as a thank you for the thousands of pounds they give the charity each year.

That money helps the trust continue to provide opportunities at the working farm for thousands of children and young people each year, many of whom are from disadvantaged backgrounds.

As well as running school visits, educating youngsters about where their food comes from, the charity supports young people with autism and those who have been suspended or expelled from school.

The vines are lovingly tended throughout the year by volunteers Derek Henry and Simon Baddeley, who were joined by dozens of willing helpers for the annual harvest on Wednesday.

Among those lending a hand this year was the High Sheriff of South Yorkshire, Stephen Ingram, who is one of the vineyard's sponsors.

There is a waiting list to sponsor one of the 90 or so rows of vines at the farm but volunteers are always welcome to help with the harvest, and there are lots of other opportunities to get involved at the farm.

For more information, visit www.whirlowhallfarm.org.