IT ALL BEGAN WITH AN IDEA (AND AN OWL)
Hanley is a boutique vineyard and winery positioned on the edge of the Teme Valley in a parish called Hanley Childe. Set up and run by Steve & Maria Smith, the estate is set in beautiful, idyllic countryside on land that originally formed part of Kyre Park Estate.
After they married, Steve and Maria decided to return to Hanley Childe, Maria’s childhood home and where her family have lived since the 1920s, where they set up a smallholding, both wanting to do something from the land.
However, it was a trip to Portugal and in particular, a trip to a vineyard there that the idea of making wine at home took hold. Steve was immediately taken by how the vineyard looked, and as soon as they returned home, they both started finding out about everything they could about viticulture.
The land they had wasn’t a typical site for vines, but both of them were convinced it was
something they had to try. While trying to choose the ideal location for their first planting, they had a little help from above. Quite literally, actually. They noticed an owl who would regularly swoop over a particular area. This helped persuade them of the position – both felt it was nature showing them the way. The owl is still a regular visitor to this day, checking up on them and is thanked for its help by featuring in the winery’s branding and on the wine labels.
‘It’s certainly been an interesting journey to get where we are today.We are continually exploring vineyard management, constantly
looking at different ways of doing things to get the best possible wines. We try and do it all while being as environmentally friendly
as we can too, things like leaving headlands alone to encourage wildlife to thrive is as important to us as everything else.
We don’t have any aspirations of ever working at a vast scale. You see commercial wineries producing 10,000 bottles a year. We don’t
want that. We like that we’re small, it’s more personal. Now, we can greet people ourselves who come to the winery. We can offer employment to the local community and we can support local artisans – something we’re very enthusiastic about.
We’re also incredibly enthusisatic about the wine we make, we’re proud of each bottle and are very much looking forward to you
When they started Steve & Maria planted 500 vines, all individually, all by hand. And, to their delight, the vines proved successful. Since then, they have planted a further 2500 in the same way. As Maria says, ‘there’s nothing like planting a vineyard for putting down roots.’
Steve studied at Plumpton college – the UK’s centre of excellence for wine. And since then, he has been responsible for all the wine made on the estate.
All the vines are pruned and harvested by hand, with all the trellising done by hand as well. They also use as little chemicals in the vineyard as possible, spraying once a year for weeds – the rest of the weeding and mowing is done by hand. In 2021, they were very proud to join Sustainable Wines GB.