The island of St Martin’s in the Scillies used to specialise in the growing of spring bulbs and flowers. As the old business has shrunk, a new use has been found for some of the tiny fields with tall hedges that protected the plants from Atlantic storms: England’s remotest vineyard and winery.
St Martin’s Vineyard was founded in 1996 when the offspring of the owner of the bulb farm came back to the island looking for a challenge. Father, in his 90s now, still grows some bulbs, but half a dozen of his little fields are taken up by vines of a number of varieties including Orion, Reichensteiner, Schonberger and Ziegerrebe (the latter in a polytunnel because it will not fruit properly in the Scillies otherwise).
Viniculturalists will probably know why these varieties thrive in the salty storm winds of the island.Production is small – only 3,600 bottles a year – but they make it all themselves, and sell it entirely within the islands. We tried two wines and bought one, and they were very pleasant to drink, though at prices of £13.50 a bottle and upwards they would not compete on price now with mainland English wines, except as a curious rarity, well worth trying if you are offered a bottle in the Scillies.
As vineyards go, it is in a spectacular location and visitors are welcome.Here is the nearby beach:
St Martins has a delightful pub, a village shop and a small, upmarket and expensive hotel called the Karma Resort, which had staff rushing around with customers’ baggage from a speedboat cum ferry when we looked inside.Below are two other residents of the island: