Planted in 1971 and now one of the oldest commercial vineyards in the UK, Astley in Worcestershire is
best known for its sparkling and still wines made from old Kerner vines. Here we meet with its custodians,
the Haywood family, and find out how their experimental, sustainable approach to wine making
has evolved into award-winning wines and experiences.
Owned by Tim and Bev Haywood, and run alongside their son, Chris and wife Matleena, the family purchased Astley in 2017.
Starting with no viticulture or wine making experience to their name, six years on the wines are now found on list in Michelin-starred restaurants, there’s over 10 labels in their portfolio and the estate is the place to be for exciting tours and events.
You can explore the estate at your leisure with a picnic and four legged friends, and taste Astley wines in the Wine Garden. Plans are afoot for shepherds’ huts to stay in overnight; as well as workshops with artist in residence, Daisy Askins of Vine Willow Wood; and masterclasses in vermouth blending.
Never resting on their laurels, this is an experimental winery, with old vine Kerner (similar to Riesling) being made into still and sparkling wines, alongside orange wines, vermouth and a new, lightly sparkling low alcohol wine – Saint Vincent – on the menu.
Running a small business has its challenges, what do you enjoy the most about running your business?
“Astley Vineyard is a family run business and is very labour intensive. But by managing everything ourselves it means we have a personal connection with the vines, wines and the people who visit us. We love chatting about our big adventure – buying a rundown vineyard without any previous experience and transforming it into a successful visitor attraction with our own winery. And working together as an extended family is very life affirming,” says Bev Haywood, “I sometimes say that our business is about selling happiness – a glass of wine, a walk in the countryside, gathering with friends around a table, or giving a gift to someone you love”.
How do you approach sustainability?
“Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do. We are custodians of the land, and we have a responsibility to care for it. We started working with academic institutions, hosting research on new ways to manage the vineyard, to encourage biodiversity and protect our precious old vines. This includes perennial wildflower planting, regenerative pruning, and bat surveys. We have installed solar panels on our winery this year and we won a Green Tourism Mark from our district council. We are lowering the amount of plastic we use to brand our wine and have a cardboard recycling machine to create new bottle wrapping material, “ Bev explains.
Meet the Haywood family
A family that makes wine together, stays together, and this is a tight team of multi-taskers.
Chis Haywood is the winemaker, as well as managing sales, events and online activity. Having worked at Harvey Nichols’ wineshop he realised wine was his future, and following courses at WSET and Plumpton College, he now applies his innovative and experimental ethos across his boutique portfolio of wines.
Tim Haywood is the vineyard manager, estate manager and owner. His expertise in business and sustainability has guided Astley’s environmentally friendly approach, becoming organic in 2021, not an easy task in our marginal climate.
Bev Haywood, owner, business and administration manager admits she is a jack of all trades, and who you’ll most likely meet at the cellar door; and Matleena Haywood is Astley’s account manager and assistant vineyard manager.
Visit Astley’s Little Green Book profile here