Why goats’ milk ice cream, lavender and Welsh wine are part of the new cool country lifestyle…
It may sound improbable, but it’s true – food and drink are the new rock ’n’ roll. Not your everyday stuff, the non-organic spuds and battery-farmed eggs. Rather, it’s the specialist delicacies, the foodies’ delights found in delis or fashionable farm shops like Daylesford – the home-produced cheeses, fine wines and whiskies, -artisan chocolates, and all things vegan or veggie.
You are nobody nowadays if you haven’t got your own label on something. Cricket’s bon viveur, Sir Ian Botham, has created his own batch of cabernet sauvignon; Blur’s bass player Alex James churns out cheese from his Cotswolds farm; Archers naughty boy Toby Fairbrother makes gin; and Prince Charles has Waitrose marketing his range of Duchy delectables. And all of this is having an effect on the country property market.
“Demand for idyllic cottages with a piece of land has grown with the rise of the cottage industry,” says Oliver Custance Baker of Strutt and Parker. “Recently I have had several requests for working vineyards, and ¬cider orchards are also becoming much sought after. People love to imagine themselves savouring their latest vintage at their dinner parties.”………….
The same cannot be said for rainy Pembrokeshire. Yet according to Andrew Mounsey of Velfrey Vineyard near Whitland, vines manage just fine there.
“We brought in Stephen Skelton, who is an expert on vineyards,” says Mounsey, who previously used his land for sheep farming. “He said ideally we should be south-facing, not too close to the coast to be troubled by high winds and not too far above sea level to catch too many frosts. We ticked all the boxes.”
In April 2017 Velfrey planted 3,500 vines, bought from a company in Yorkshire and put in place by specialists from Germany. They predict a harvest of two tons, which should make 1,400 bottles – about a third of what they hope to produce in the future.
“I certainly prefer farming vines to sheep,” says Mounsey. “Vines don’t run away!”
Marketing can be a problem for a small-scale producer. You live the dream, relocating from the city to – create something from the land, but how do you turn it into a business? ……………..
“Anyone with a small foodie business would be wise to move to an area like West Wales,” says buying agent Carol Peett. “Somewhere they’ll find lots of farmers’ markets, delis, country shows and food festivals to sell their stuff.”
Richard Thomas goes to these kind of events to sell his Cinnamon Grove Gin, which won “Best Pembrokeshire Product” at this year’s Pembrokeshire Show.
The inspiration for his tipple, which he retails at £34 a bottle, was the well in his garden. With echoes of Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses, he first considered selling the contents as bottled water. But there wasn’t enough of it.
Then he thought of vodka, but the distilling process was too expensive. So he turned to gin. He adds ethanol at 96 per cent proof to his well water, which ¬dilutes the alcohol. “Sometimes I feel like a mad scientist, experimenting with new blends,” says Thomas.
He has certainly caught the zeitgeist. There are now 315 gin distilleries in Britain – double the number since five years ago. Some 47 m bottles of the spirit, worth £1.2 bn, were bought last year.
“The USP of a product like ours is that the customer finds out exactly where it comes from,” says Thomas, who is hoping to expand, with two new flavours at the testing stage. “We are exactly what it says on the label.”
If you are thinking of setting up a business in West Wales, or just buying a property here, give Carol Peett at West Wales Property Finders a call on 01834 862816. We can find the perfect property for you whilst saving you time, stress, and often money too http://www.westwalespropertyfinders.co.uk