27 October 1995

A personal vine for all Fannys adopters

CUSTOMER attraction is the best description for Fanny Maiklems vineyard enterprise.

Her "vineyard estate" at Lodge Farm, Merstham, Surrey – just a few miles along the North Downs from Britains biggest vineyard – extends to a mere 0.1ha (1/4acre) of mature vines and a further 0.1ha (1/4acre) of young ones but adds to the interest of her extensive farm shop enterprise.

Fanny is not licensed to sell wine. What her customers pay a £10 fee for is the privilege of adopting a vine of their choice. This is boldly labelled with their name and at the end of the year each adopter receives a bottle of English white table wine. This also bears their name on a label which carries a picture of Lodge Farm and a declaration that the wine has been specially bottled for the named person by Carr Taylor Vineyards of Westfield, Sussex.

The venture began in spring 1990 with the planting of 75 cuttings in a well-signed area close to the road and under the eye of passing trade. The variety is Madeleine Angevine which flourishes in the neighbouring vineyard that supplied Fanny with the cuttings.

Adopters are encouraged to visit their vines regularly to watch progress and to boost the outing with a visit to the farm shop and tea rooms.

The grass around the vines is kept mown so that they may walk comfortably among them and, as this is a holding where poultry and other animals are free to roam and charm the visitors, keeping the access clean is another consideration.

Vine adopters are usually older people or those "who have got everything", whose friends and family adopt vines for them as gifts. One family has adopted a whole row. The adoption fee is an annual one and about half of Fannys adopters renew their status annually. AR