June 18, 2024

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An Englishman in a Vendee Vineyard

An Englishman in a Vendee Vineyard

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When he moved to Wendy’s from the London suburbs in 2017 with his wife and child, Russell Clark never imagined he would one day become a winemaker.

“I know nothing about wine or vines! » He laughs with his British accent.

However, his story wrote itself.

“My mother-in-law is French, my father-in-law is English,” says Russell. After a life in London, “my in-laws decided to sell their main residence in England when they retired, to settle in a second home in Predignols-sur-Mer”.

Unfortunately, father-in-law fell ill.

One day, after talking on the phone with her mother, my wife told me: we can’t leave her, we have to join her in France to help her.

Russell Clarke, winemaker at Aisne

For Russell, it was unthinkable: “I had a good job as a director of a packaging company in London and our son was two. » Can’t see Russell leaving this life. “My wife insisted. » So he resigned himself.

South London house for sale. “I thought I would have six months left, but it sold out in 24 hours!” This is how Russell and his little family crossed the canal To reach the Vendée lands in September 2017.

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“I didn’t speak a word of French,” recalls Russell Clarke, who has made good progress since then.

English Goes surfing, then looks for work.

Russell will open his cellar to the public on the weekend of May 1, 2024. ©Lucile AKRICH

A unique opportunity

Russell discovered the business when he was employed at the vineyards of Eric Sage, an organic winemaker in Brem-sur-Merill.

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Totally new, The Londoner has a passion for grapes.

I loved this job of interacting with nature in rain, sun and cold.

Russell Clarke, winemaker at Aisne

The contrast with the London office was useful for Russell Clarke, who spent five years with the coastal winemaker. “I learned everything. »

In January 2023, an “unbelievable opportunity” comes his way.

is given to him Rent the Aisene vineyards.

After the operator leaves, the landowner looks for someone to take over the vineyard. True to his inquisitive mind and his entrepreneurial soul, Russell jumped at the chance and signed a nine-year lease.

The Englishman will produce his first bottles this winter.
The Englishman will produce his first bottles this winter. ©Lucille Agrich

2023 harvest “in earnest”

He discovered, “For eight months!” » The joy of French management in setting up a business. “It was painful, because I had customs authorization to make wine three weeks before the start of the harvest! »

Prudent, Russell didn’t buy a tractor, a press or a vat. “I used everything in a hurry…” recalls the winemaker, who recalled his first harvest at Pont des Vignes last summer. “Although I love France, I will always be an Englishman from an island! » laughs Russell.

10,000 bottles of white, rose and red

Satisfied with the first harvest That should make “two whites, two roses, and two reds.” By the end of February.

Russell Clark will propose 10,000 bottles of organic wine for sale directly to the estateStarting next spring.

The winemaker promises “simple, friendly wine for everyone,” Organic is very affordable, “between €8 and €14 per bottle”. “I’d rather sell my wine than store it,” he says.

“Whether you know nothing about wine or are a restauranteur, there’s always a bottle for you,” he promises.

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The new owner is opening his doors to the public 1 weekendR May 2024 Discover its wines.

The Bridge of Vines, Adri

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