January 13, 2010 / 5:17 PM / 9 years ago

Billionaire twins to create Channel island vineyard

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - British billionaire twin brothers David and Frederick Barclay plan to create a Bordeaux-style vineyard on the Channel island of Sark.

French winemaker Alain Raynaud told Reuters on Wednesday that he was recruited by the Barclay brothers to plant 40,000 vines on the formerly feudal island which will produce 20,000 bottles of premium home-grown vintage by 2013.

“It was not a question of money but a question of passion,” Raynaud told Reuters by telephone when asked why he would attempt to create the island’s first modern age vineyard.

After a 10-day site assessment and further six months of testing the suitability of Sark’s microclimate and soil, Raynaud agreed to plant a six hectare (15-acre) vineyard, capable of producing still white, sparkling white and red wines that will likely cost between 15 and 20 pounds ($24.41-$32.55) a bottle.

Raynaud said there was potential to develop a great white wine and sparkling wine, but that red would be more difficult on the island, which lies about 6 miles east of Guernsey off the coast of Normandy.

“The Sark vines stand at an elevation of about 100 meters (yards) above sea level and on the same latitude as the Loire,” Raynaud said. “But it has the same sun as Bordeaux.”

The brothers who own London’s Ritz hotel and the Daily Telegraph newspaper also own about a fifth of the land on Sark and half its hotels, according to newspaper reports. They live in a gothic mansion on the nearby islet of Brecqhou.

Planting will begin in April this year. The vineyard will employ five locals and is intended to help Sark develop as a tourist destination, while maintaining its unique character.

According to Raynaud the wine will be neither English nor French, but proudly Sark’s and taken from Chardonnay, Pinot gris and Savagnin grapes. The majority of the wine (15,000 bottles) will be white, to be enjoyed by the islanders, visitors to Sark, and the wider world.

Raynaud noted that Sark’s acidic soil will be useful for maturing the wines, but told London’s Times newspaper that his main challenge will be the wind.

“The only adverse situation is the wind, which will disturb the young vines, but I am convinced that we can protect them with trellising,” he said.

Raynaud also told Reuters that the southeast of England will be a good place to grow wine in the next 10 years.

“With global warming, areas where growing wine was once difficult will now be possible,” he said.

Sark brought its feudal system of government to an end in December 2008, when the island’s 474 eligible voters took part in its first full parliamentary election in nearly 450 years, electing 28 members of a new chamber.

The car-free island had broadly held onto the political and judicial systems bestowed upon it by England’s Queen Elizabeth I until the December 2008 vote.

The Barclay brothers had campaigned for deep change to Sark’s system of government.

Their legal representative told Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper that they were shutting their businesses on the island a day after the majority of the candidates they had backed for the new chamber failed to win election in the 2008 poll.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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