The Story of RUGBY into WINE
A Rugby Player who decided to try his hand at a little Winemaking
and much more …
So how exactly does one go from Rugby into the unknown mysteries of the world of Winemaking? To anyone, the two professions would seem like pretty stark contrasts.
The story starts with Ben Oliphant-Thompson. Ben plays rugby for the Taunton Titans, the Titans are a National League 2 South Team – the 4th highest tier in English Rugby. Ben is an avid player and fierce competitor and at just 20 he is one of their youngest players. When he's not playing rugby, Ben is a keen adventurer, constantly immersing himself in the outdoors, be it motorbiking, sailing, flying, jumping out of planes or travelling the world. When Ben learned that he had the opportunity to get involved in the drinks industry, he of course, “jumped” at the opportunity, seeing it as his next big adventure.
Back in 2017, Ben's family bought the property ‘Kenton Park Estate' previously known as ‘Kenton Vineyard'. It was a successful commercial Vineyard that produced some award-winning wines. The most notable achievement was a gold medal and challenge cup for the “Best Dry White from a commercial Vineyard in 2014”.
The Vineyard was originally planted in 2003 and grew Pinot Noir Précoce, Rondo, Ortega and Bacchus. Whilst the Vineyard was well known for its wines, perhaps it was not so well known for the absolutely stunning location in which it sits. On the west side of the Exe Estuary, nestled in the foothills of the Mamhead Forest and the Haldon Hills, it is surrounded by sweeping countryside. The Estate lies just a few miles from Powderham Castle and the beautiful Exe Estuary. The gentle rolling landscapes allow for some spectacular early morning sunrises and evening sunsets. With a clear night sky, the view of the stars is staggering.
The Estate is also certainly no stranger to wildlife either. It's not uncommon to see wild deer walking elegantly through the fields and pheasants strutting around the orchard.
A place of such outstanding beauty could not just be lived in, it had to be shared and so it was decided that the Vineyard would be replanted and the Estate would be reborn for all to share and enjoy.
It fell upon Ben to bring the Vineyard “back to life”. This was no small task and so Ben enrolled at Plumpton College to study the principles of Vine-growing and Winemaking to try and give himself at least an idea of the challenge he was undertaking.
In the interim Ben sustained a broken hand through rugby. Whilst forced to take a break from playing he decided to produce a Vintage of another sort, from the Estate's Apple Orchard, its very own Sparkling Cider and the brand "HardCore Cider" was born.
Work on the fields then started in earnest, approximately 12 acres of the land was to be prepared for the planting of 15,000 brand new vines in May 2018. He therefore turned to his fellow Taunton Team mates for an aiding hand.
It was back-breaking work, but the "Motley Crew" of Rugby players, all of varying shapes and sizes, pulled it off and the delicate Vines are now safely planted and growing well. Of course, the rugby antics didn't stray far from the fields, the humour, charisma and camaraderie were all present on the day of planting and will be expressed in the wines.
It was back breaking work .....
The ‘Motley Crew' name stuck and has since been adapted to "The Motley Cru" in honour of the support Ben received from his fellow Team mates and is used as the branding for the Estate's own Sparkling Wine, it’s Cocktail Bar and Tasting Room.
When the first Vintage of Sparkling Wine is ready, it will of course, be called "The Motley Cru" 2013 Sparkling Classic Cuvée.
You can read more about the story of Kenton Park Estate on our Twitter Page @KentonParkWines and you can also read more about Ben and his adventures as well as all event details at his website www.rugbyintowine.com. Ben shown below with his sister Sienna who also did an amazing job working in the Vineyard on a very hot Bank Holiday Weekend - a real Motley Cru affair.