Hugo Stewart’s farming story doesn’t begin with fruit, but with pigs. The family farm; Botley’s, had belonged to his grandmother and uncle, before the responsibility fell to him. So pigs it was, until twenty years ago. Needing a change of scenery he rented the farm out to a neighbour so he could spend a year in France. Or so he thought.
When a friend; Paul Old, visited Hugo in the Corbieres he fell hard for the area, insisting he & Hugo should make wine. A bolt from the blue that became Les Clos Perdus, an esteemed biodynamic domaine, ran collaboratively between the two for over a decade, with Hugo responsible for farming their plots of old vines.
Starting out on his viticulture journey and visiting other growers, Hugo had a handful of eye-opening experiences of conventional farming, deciding early on that it would not be the way they operated. Beginning with organics and quickly proceeding to biodynamics at the recommendation of a neighbour, Hugo’s viticulture even caught the attention of biodynamic pioneer Nicolas Joly, who became a great advocate for Hugo & Paul’s wines.
Returning back to Wiltshire for his family in 2015, Hugo was confident that the windswept chalk soils of the family farm could make great vineyards, deciding to plant a handful of traditional Champagne varietals. Fifteen years of careful biodynamic farming in France had given Hugo the strongest footing for beginning the journey from scratch back in the UK.
In 2018 he took the fruit of his first home-grown vintage to the nearby Langham estate to be vinified by the young head winemaker there: Daniel Ham. So excited by the quality of fruit and the story of Hugo’s biodynamic farming, Daniel had soon talked himself into a new job: “have you ever considered building a winery?”
From that chance encounter, the second winemaking collaboration of Hugo’s life was born. Building the winery together at Botley’s, Dan heads up the winemaking, with Hugo concentrating on the biodynamic viticulture.
Domaine Hugo is a shining example of how the future of wine should look in the UK: Hugo’s attention to detail in the vineyards and Daniel’s commitment to terroir driven wines are a special combination.
Reproduced with thanks from Under the Bonnet Wines www.winesutb.com