When Nick Thompson bought a farm, the thing he wanted most was its trout lakes.
In the end, what he got, apart from several lush acres ideal for his beloved red poll cattle, was a vineyard.
His fishing dreams faded – a hungry heron did not help – but the slopes of Brent Eleigh turned out to be great for growing grapes.
So good, in fact, that the almost-accidental vineyard has just won him a national trophy.
Nick’s Lavenham Brook Pinot Noir Symphony Rosé 2013 was judged most outstanding still rosé at the Wine of the Year competition 2014 run by UK Vineyards Association.
And to make it a double celebration, his still white Lavenham Bacchus 2013 was awarded a silver medal.
Nick’s wines have won gold medals before, but this time he has gone one better.
“I was astonished to win the trophy,” he says. “The weather absolutely collapsed in September –exactly when the grapes were ripening and needed warm sunshine, so it was not a good year to make wine.”
Nick and his wife Rosemary have lived in Suffolk since they married in 1971.
He bought Brook Farm in 2000 after a career as a Lloyds underwriter.
“Having spent my whole life working in the City, the need to get out in the fresh air was quite strong,” he says.
“The cattle came first. I’ve now got a herd of around 75 red polls which are the native breed for Suffolk.”
Then he realised the farm included a sloping field just crying out for grapes.
“Owning a vineyard was something I’d always wanted to do, but never expected to,” he said.
“Being a cautious fellow, I planted a small amount. The vines grew, so in 2005 I got it up to three acres, then another seven.”
The award coincides with the opening of a shop at the farm offering tastings and sales of Lavenham Brook wines and apple juices.
“We used to sell wine from the window sill in the farm office, which lacked a certain ambience,” he says.
The vineyard currently yields around 8,000 bottles of wine a year.
He sends the grapes to a vineyard near Chelmsford to be made into wine.
“I’m interested in growing the best grapes, but there is too much chemistry involved in wine making and that’s always been a closed book to me,” said Nick.
He hopes to have all 10 acres in full production soon. “I’m hoping it will be onwards and upwards from now on,” he added.
Farm and vineyard tours are planned in the future. For more details, go to www.lavenhambrook.co.uk.