Chapel Down to spend more on beer to offset cost of wine

Chapel Down is looking to expand its beer business

English winemaker Chapel Down is building its own brewery and will use its beer business to drive cashflow and offset the production costs of its sparkling wine.

The Kent-based vineyard, which this week secured £4.3m of equity funding, is looking to expand its Curious beer business and increase its vine acreage. The company has appointed former C&C Group and Scottish & Newcastle CEO John Dunsmore to the board to oversee the expansion.

Chapel Down CEO Frazer Thompson described sparkling wine production as a “cash monster eating money”, because of the time it took to see a return on investment. “It is three years from planting to picking and another three years before the wine is ready,” he said.

Brewing had proved complementary to wine, he added, increasing efficiency of distribution, and offsetting the “cash degenerative” business model that led many wineries to go bust due to cashflow problems.

“There are many synergies with beer and wine from a customer, stockist, process and logistics point of view,” Thompson said.

Brewing of the Curious range - which comprises a lager, an IPA and a porter - is currently contracted out to Everards Brewery in Leicestershire and Hepworth & Co in West Sussex. The brewery would provide a new home for the brand, the company said, adding that it was looking at sites and hoped to complete the scheme in 18 months.

Chapel Down also plans to run visitor tours, building on the work it has done at the winery.