Lewis Whitfield - Exton Park
Vineyard: Exton Park
Position: Assistant Winemaker
What inspired you to become a winemaker?
Seeing my older brother’s passion associated with the full end to end process of nurturing grapes into an exceptional wine was infectious. His enthusiasm sparked my interest and gave me the understanding that winemaking is both an art and science in equal measures. Even today working with him continues to be inspiring and I am continuously motivated to push myself to learn and excel in a similar manner.
Please describe your winemaking journey so far…
My path into the wine industry is an accidental one but now that I am here, hugely welcome. Back in 2012 I was earmarked to work at the London Olympics but during a quiet period before the Games my older brother, who was working at Exton Park Vineyard encouraged me to take on some part time work, everything from leaf stripping to bottling. This provided me with my first ’taste’ of the industry. Needless to say, I enjoyed the experience so much that when I was offered a chance to work on a vintage at Marisco Winery in Marlborough, New Zealand, I jumped at the opportunity. After the vintage at Marisco, I went to work at Barkers Marque Vineyard working for an old friend of my mother’s. These three opportunities collectively put me on the path to work in wine. Thankfully on my return to the UK my brother was back at Exton Park Vineyard and I saw an opportunity to become even more involved. With no positions available until harvest time, I grasped the chance to help as a cellar hand. The rest is history, I have managed to work my way up to assistant winemaker with my brother as the winemaker; I have to say I think we make a pretty good team.
Describe your personal highlight of your career so far.
Well I have to say a massive highlight so far was the complete shock of being offered the position of assistant wine maker. It came as a complete surprise and there was no hesitation in snapping up the offer. It has been a huge role to step into and a massive step in the right direction for my carreer.
Can you think of a valuable piece of information/advice you wish you had been given prior to training?
Find yourself a mentor early, because you can learn more from experienced, passionate people than you can from books.
Which of your current wines are you most excited about?
Our Blanc de Noirs, it is an incredible wine with wonderful flavors. I have always been a huge fan of it.
What were the last two truly memorable English wines (that weren’t your own) that you tasted?
Hambledon Classic Cuvee
Hattingley Valley Entice Dessert Wine
Decanter recently published an article which highlighted a shortage of young recruits into the English Wine industry - what would you say in order to convince young people in the UK into considering a career in winemaking?
Its such an interesting career as there are so many different routes within the wine industry you can travel down. If you enjoy having a finished product that you can show off, be proud of, and know you had a hand in making then winemaking is definitely something you could get on with. Its also worth remembering that for all those young people keen to travel then there is always vintages happening in all areas of the world.