Martin’s Lane was established as a partnership in 2008 and is formed of a small group of families, friends and relatives, the majority of whom live in the village of Stow Maries near Maldon in Essex.
The partnership was formed to acquire an area of steep sloping meadowland on the north side of the River Crouch estuary at Stow Maries with the aim of developing the site as a vineyard.
The area owned by the partnership amounts to around 30 acres and the strategy has been to plant the whole of the hillside site as vineyard under a rolling programme, which first began in 2010.
Because of its steep gradients the site had never previously been used for arable farming except for a brief period in the forties during the Second World War. As a result the meadowland retained a good organic top soil layer above the rich local clay and with slopes of up to 1 in 6 good drainage and high fertility were assured throughout.
The vineyard site is situated in a designated Special Landscape Area occupying south and west facing hillside between 20 and 55 metres above sea level with stunning views across the River Crouch estuary. Importantly for grape production in this country the site benefits climatically through protection from the river tides against spring frosts in a corner of Essex having regularly the warmest temperatures and lowest rainfall in the United Kingdom at less than half a metre per annum.
The partnership decided upon gradual development of the vineyard to gain experience of the site and to diversify planting to cater for different types of wine both still and sparkling.
Planting began in 2010 and given early outstanding results progressed quickly with further blocks divided by native hedgerows within the existing field boundaries. Varieties planted include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Gris (Grigio), Bacchus and Pinot Noir Précoce.
All the early indications confirm that this site in the upper Crouch estuary provides an ideal location for cultivation of the classic cool climate grape varieties. Since the first crop in 2012 the fruit has been of the very highest quality with the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris in particular all showing outstanding results and prompting the partnership to embark upon production of the first wines.
The partnership had planned a mixed economy for the vineyard to be founded in its early years upon the sale of grapes, but because of the exceptional and consistently high quality of the fruit the decision was taken to move quickly towards wine production under Martin’s Lane own trade mark and brand.
In taking this step the founding principle of the Martin’s Lane partnership has been firmly that of producing only wines of the highest quality with the objective of raising the profile of English wine to the level of wines more familiarly seen in the world’s most important cool climate wine growing areas. The emphasis has been on still wines where true success is only assured by use of the very best and ripest of fruit.
The limited release of the first Martin’s Lane wines took place in 2016 and has included a 2013 Pinot Noir ‘Blanc de Noirs’, a magnificent oaked white wine made from the red Pinot Noir grape, and our Pinot Grigio, a superb white wine made from our very first crop of this grape variety taken in 2014. Both are wines of exceptional quality and there has already been an extraordinarily high demand from the premium restaurant trade for these single estate English wines.
Our first sparkling wine, the 2014 Chardonnay 'Blanc de Blancs', made only from fruit of aromatic clones of the Chardonnay grape, has been released in 2017. Our 2016 crop of wines, from the beautifully ripened fruit of that harvest, including a Chardonnay, a Pinot Gris, a first red Pinot Noir Précoce and a further Pinot Noir Blanc de Noirs are all available for 2018.