The English wine world has expressed deep sorrow at the death of Charles Cunningham, a 'pioneer' in the world of English wine.

Cunningham (pictured), a leading British winemaker, is thought to have been murdered in Indonesia. Police there have confirmed that a body found four weeks ago in a ravine on the island of Lombok is that of the owner and founder of Wooldings Vineyard in Hampshire.

They are treating the death as suspicious, and said they believed robbery was the motive. Cunningham’s head was battered and there was blood on his hands where he appeared to have tried to defend himself.

Cunningham was due to return to England on 10 April but had not been heard from since 23 March, when he telephoned his mother from the nearby island of Bali.

Police have arrested a local guide, Sukini Emaq, in connection with the death and are searching for a second man. Emaq will be sent to trial, which is expected to start in a few weeks. He could face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

Cunningham’s mother and sister were both involved in running Wooldings vineyard, which was the first English vineyard to be awarded the Quality Wine Marque in May 2001.

Wooldings’ wines won a series of awards. Recent successes were his Brut 94 sparkling wine which gained a Bronze Medal in the International Wine & Spirits Competition in 2000, a Silver Medal in the English & Welsh wine of the Year in 2000, and the top award in the local Thames & Chilterns Vineyard Association for his red wine in 2001.

Roger Marchbank, chairman of the Wessex Vineyards Association, said, ‘There are very few in our world of wine that do not know of Charles. It is particularly sad that many more will come to know of him through such a terrible tragedy.’

Written by Josie McLaughlin1 May 2002