The Story Behind Oastbrook Estate
“There was an ancient vine that crept up the side of the old stucco house I lived in. It is a fond memory of when I was a girl growing up in a small town in Bahia, in the North East of Brazil. The vine had twisted itself around the wrought iron balcony on the first floor of the building and had pushed the bars to one side. I used to squeeze myself through those bars and climb onto the vine. From there I could hold myself, draped in the leaves, and gorge myself on fresh grapes.
Perhaps that is where I had my first passion for vines. It would, however, be some time before grapes and I renewed our relationship. After travelling the world in search of my diverse roots I found out I am in fact a little bit English by descent. I therefore feel very settled where I am now, in the heart of the English countryside in East Sussex. Our home is at a beautiful farm by the banks of the River Rother, only a stone’s throw from Bodiam Castle. The Oast house we moved into looked like a princess’ castle and was also once a key part of the economy of the valley. It had been owned by Guinness for the farming of hops for the reason that the Oast houses themselves were used for drying the hops.”
The Planting Begins
“Remembering my childhood, I planted some vines that climbed up the walls of the Oast. Due to the south facing aspect and the temperate climate I got a bountiful crop, even by my second year. Therefore I decided to make some wine from the grapes. I had heard of quiet revolution occurring in England with some sparkling wines starting to challenge established Champagne brands. Upon starting to visit local vineyards, I met people who were consequently to become my friends and colleagues. It was they who encouraged me to study wine production at Plumpton College.
I started to look at the terroir in our valley and its history whilst studying. There is a sandstone ridge running alongside the banks of the Rother, with a mix of clay and silt from the river. These had once spread more widely across the valley and used to be navigable from the sea. Iron was smelted here in roman times from the ironstone that lies about on the surface of our fields. Furthermore this is responsible for creating the natural spring that fills our pond. The farm is surrounded by many natural brooks – Gypsy brook, Channel brook and the most poetic to me, Oastbrook. The later lends its name for the original name of the farm. I decided that should be the name of my wine.”
The Journey Continues
“We planted our first vines while I was still studying. Walking through my vineyard for the first time I closed my eyes, listened to the breeze and remembered home. I like to think that perhaps that Englishman who had travelled to the small town in Bahia also saw that same vine growing up the side of the house where I was born. Maybe he even planted it. Maybe he too came back home dreaming of those grapes. I’m now tending those vines and making the wine for us both.“
Oastbrook Estate is partly funded by a grant from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). This is a grant to support a project to purchase equipment necessary to operate a fully functioning winery in an existing building. The equipment consists of grape processing equipment, tanks and a coolant system along with the fit out of a laboratory for testing at Park Farm Oast, Junction Road, Robertsbridge, East Sussex, TN32 5XA (“the Project”)