Fine Farm Produce Awards 2015 best drink product

Charles Palmer walking along vines in his vineyard

It’s a rather fitting win for Charles Palmer’s 2010 Brut Sparkling Wine at this year’s Fine Farm Produce Awards as he planted the first vines on his tenanted farm 10 years ago, the same year as the FFPAs were established.

2006 was also the same year that English Sparkling Wine first started to be taken seriously alongside Champagne.

In February, you’ll find Charles Palmer braving wind and frost as he prunes each of his 11,000 vines by hand ready for the year ahead.

Throughout July, he carefully removes 40% of the leaves, also by hand, to make sure the grapes receive as much sunlight and air as possible.

Finally, in October, when the fruit's acidity and sugar levels are just right, you’ll find him tirelessly harvesting the grapes (you guessed it, also by hand).

All this care and dedication comes together in the bottle, where Charles leaves his wines to slowly ferment for up to three and a half years before being cellared for a further six months.

It’s a truly artisanal approach to wine-making that’s earning Charles a reputation as one of England’s most exciting sparkling winemakers. Although Charles himself dedicates his success to the earth and air of the East Sussex coast more than anything.

'Being so close to the sea we get a maritime effect, where the sun’s reflection heats the air,' he explains. 'Yet we’re sheltered from the cooling coastal breeze by a ridge of hills. And underneath our feet, our subsoil is fundamentally the same as they have in Burgundy.'

A tenant of the National Trust since 1998, he decided to turn some of his land into a vineyard back in 2006, and now has 15 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines.

This is the first time Charles has entered the Fine Farm Produce Awards. But having made a real impact on the judges we hope it won’t be his last.

'From the outset, it wasn’t just about growing grapes for us,' he says. 'It was about making top-quality wines and selling them. Winning an award as prestigious as this will really help us achieve that.'