THERE were exciting scenes at a vineyard near Alresford last week as staff began picking the grapes that will lead to the first-ever bottles of Raimes English sparkling wine.

The vines were planted the day after Prince William and Kate Middleton’s royal wedding in 2012, and the Raimes family business should shortly be ready to raise a toast to another landmark occasion – their first harvest.

Speaking half way through the picking at Harnham Hill, Robert Raimes, 40, said: “So far we have picked enough for 155 crates worth of very good sparkling wine, which is roughly 2.8 tonnes of Pinot, and we should finish the harvest today, with an approximate total of 5.6 tonnes expected. The vines are immature this year but as they mature you would expect to get up to four tonnes an acre.”

Augusta took a vinegrowing course at Plumpton College in Sussex and undertakes all the hand work through the year, which includes winter pruning, spring bud rubbing, tucking in and training.

The wine is a blend of the grapes used in Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay wines, the same as used in Champagne region of France, and with the same method of production.

Robert, arable farmer from Tichborne, grows wheat and barley, but his wife Augusta, 41, suggested that they put to better use two small fields near Cheriton, and they are now in their third season of growing vines.

Augusta’s parents Robert Young, 72 and his wife, Brenda, are also involved in the business as is Augusta’s sister Georgia Hugh.

The harvest will go to Hattingley Valley Winery at Wield for processing and bottling before sale. The cost of a bottle is likely to between £20-30.

Robert added: “For us so far, the local competition at Itchen Stoke has not yet become an issue, with UK production being still relatively small”.